I love new shoes, don’t you? Especially as children, when one’s feet are still growing, getting a fresh pair of tread is something to be relished, enjoyed, and appreciated.
I can remember when, as a child, I’d get the gift of going shopping once every year or so with my dad. He always made it a special “date” that he’d take me on – just dad and me.
We usually bought shoes ~ New shoes. And we almost always bought several pair.
Then we’d go and have a special lunch together. There, we’d eat and talk. Sometimes, he’d even let me wear a pair of my new shoes to lunch – he’d let me change into them in the car. That just added to the excitement, because I knew he felt it was important enough to me to get to wear my new and shiny shoes to lunch.
These are the best times I had with my dad and it simply follows that they are the times I remember best too. It wasn’t because of the purchase, or the shopping expedition, although I was quite pleased about that part of it. It was because of the feeling of it all and the learning I got out of the whole thing. The attention I received from my dad, and the thought and energy he put behind it always just blew me away.
Dad didn’t take me somewhere that he wanted to go on these little trips, but instead ventured into shopping and girl-land ~ somewhere that would make me feel special, cared for, and deeply loved.
These trips together having “date for a day” brought about important quality conversations and would serve to foreshadow many things I would experience in my life later on.
Yes, sadly, he wouldn’t be around for those later years in my little life. And yes, those shoe-shopping father-daughter trips have me thinking today. A lot.
Dad always guided me, from a very young age and throughout my life until he went home to be with Jesus. I was 20 years old at the time that he left this earth.
On the father-daughter dates, you see ~ well, dad would use this time to talk with me about big life issues, friends. He’d talk about things that I would encounter as life would become messy ~ things he knew would be happening later on in life as I “grew up.”
He talked about the stuff I would deal with, like hard choices I’d have to make, values that I’d be challenged to live by, and directions and crossroads that I’d be faced within the big and the small in life.
He knew stuff. Dad just knew his daughter.
He’d talk to me about the fact that no matter where I would happen to be in life, I would have to make sure to choose the good path ~ the right one ~ the one that would probably not be easy most of the time.
I’d have to commit and pray about walking the walk and keep on going ~ no matter what. He knew there would be times ~ many, many times ~ that I would want to just give up.
But as long as I had a firm footing and a solid foundation, he assured me….”everything would be okay.” If that foundation faltered, though, it would be time to really take a hard look at some things. He said those times would be difficult for me.
Dad said I’d be faced every which way that I turned in life with the choice to bow to mediocrity or live out life giving everything my absolute best I have to offer.
That “best” included, first and foremost, my relationship with Jesus Christ. The One.
The One who would be my real guide, my real teacher, my real God, and my real and only Savior. The One who would be with me from beginning to end and to eternity after that.
Little did I know at the time I would be faced with a very tangible and stark example of what it’s like to lose sense of having a father for many, many years.
See, I made the very mistake my good dad was trying to caution me about: I forgot about the fact that my heavenly father wanted a real relationship with His daughter. I neglected it. And then when my dad passed away, I felt quite lost for a while. A long while.
My heavenly Father was really there all along. I just didn’t embrace Him. In fact, I ran from Him. I was a self-imposed orphan.
I put my shoes on and I ran.
I can remember so clearly that on one of these childhood shoe dates my dad said to me….”no matter what, Anne…Jesus is your best friend. He will be the One you can turn to in the good times and the bad. There may be times when He seems to be the only One who truly understands. I am your dad here on earth, but He is your Father. He is my Father. Don’t forget.”
He was so right.
I listened. But I didn’t take heart.
I took the shoes. But I decided to walk in them the direction that I wanted them to take me.
Yes, I remember that there were many times after my dad passed on to heaven, that I felt so very alone in life. Who was going to guide me now? Who would help me figure out what direction to go with college, marriage, family, and children? What am I going to do for a job? What’s the best approach to what lies before me?
And what do I do now that I won’t have any new, good shoes? Only dad can take me to shop for those! I think I’ll just lay down. I’m going barefoot from now on!
I wanted my dad back. There’s a point in which grief can turn into self-pity. Then it becomes something ugly. It becomes about you, instead of about truly missing that loved one. Those are dark and sad shoes to walk in, for sure.
It’s not bad that I missed my dad and still do a lot of the time. It’s not bad that he provided such awesome guidance in my life and I wish he were here for wise counsel and friendship even this day. But it was not good at all that I didn’t lean into the arms of my heavenly Father while I grieved. And it’s especially sad to me that it took me so many years to embrace the Father who truly knows His daughter – every. single. hair.
I am thankful. So very thankful for my dad. And beyond that, I am so grateful that he is with His heavenly Father right now.
Now I understand with the head and with the heart what dad was trying to tell me back then. I made that decision – that choice to love and surrender my life into the hands of the Lord years ago, and I finally am asking Him – daily – to help me walk HIS walk.
And I don’t need new shoes to do that. In fact, He has to carry me Himself most of the time.
And this chronic pain thingie…God’s using it to teach me even more as to what new shoes really are all about.
My body is acting old, friends. The flesh has been failing. I am finding ways to limp through right now, and working on contentment during the process. All with the help of Jesus.
Sometimes I kick the shoes right off and let them dry out. There are other days when I have to let them stay on, even if they don’t seem to fit correctly.
But either way, shoes or no shoes, the real thing that carries me through is Jesus. He is the light that guides my path. He is even better than the very best pair of shoes.
I find that I can’t take even one step without Him without regretting it pretty quickly. And this is GOOD.
But if I am truly open and honest with you, I find myself fighting contentment sometimes. I worry and fall into the trap of mixing up the content of what my dad told me as well as what the Lord tells me in His word. I struggle with the line between contentment and mediocrity or settling. I then have to pray to make sure I am going where God wants me to go ~ rather than striving for something that only I want for myself. (There’s that self thing creeping in again – like an army boot crunching down hard!)
I start to drift into the abyss of pressing onward in my own strength and envision stepping onto a lush path with just the perfect pair of shoes on all the way.
I guess it’s natural to slip into the fleshly realm when we think about walking out this journey. And that’s just the point, isn’t it? What’s natural isn’t usually the way we should go.
We recoil from pain. We want our feet to be protected. And we try to do it in our own power sometimes. We also recoil from all that seems to be …. OLD.
No, this body of mine? It is not new. It’s somewhat frail and tattered right about now.
But God knows His plans. Maybe one day I will be healed and be more vibrant than ever when it comes to my physical health and vitality. And maybe not.
But I don’t think that’s the thing God is working on in me right now. I think He is teaching me how to step through this particular part of the journey with His grace. He’s humbling me. And He’s preparing me for something else. I can feel it.
See…my heavenly Father is now showing me in a very real way what my earthly father was trying to tell me:
Dads can do a lot with shoes if you’ll really let them.
My earthly father provided new shoes for me to get me through the school year, my few athletic endeavors, and my dress up fun. But as the shoes became tattered, I still had the wonderful expectation and anticipation that we would go again one day – again, to start fresh when the old wore out and it was time for the new.
We’d buy shoes, we’d talk, and we’d spend time together. What wonderful stuff to look forward to!
The cool thing about my heavenly father is that He is taking my old shoes and building new things inside of them as we speak. See, they may be ugly, and not so colorful and shiny as the fun new ones I used to purchase, but they are solid shoes.
Dad laid a foundation with me that would outlast any pair of shoes I ever had. And God is building new and exciting things that yield growth, no matter what circumstances I happen to be dealing with.
God is the foundation.
And God makes all things new ~ even when the outside looks worn and tattered.
I think of Jesus on the cross. As He took all our sin upon Himself and gave it all up for us. The outer shell of Jesus did not look new, shiny, or pretty while hanging upon that cross. Not at all.
But the most awesome thing that could ever happen to us was offered to us in that beautiful sacrifice, and when our Savior was resurrected from the grave, He emerged carrying the scars along with Him.
He makes ALL THINGS NEW.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 2 Corinthians 5:17
I think this is going to be a very important verse in my life over this next year or so. How about you? Do you know that you are a new creation in Christ Jesus even if you feel like old, and used-up goods right about now?
Do you know that He is preparing a place for us that will be better than any new and fresh stuff we could possess in this life we are living today?
Do you see the beauty in the newness of who You are inside with Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior in spite of what the outside may seem like?
Do you know He can make all things new ~ yes YOU.
Don’t be persuaded to think that He can do anything less than all of these things in your life, friend. Jesus died and rose again for this very purpose – to give us hope, eternal life, and to enable us to know this is not all there is ~ there is renewal going on inside of us each and every day if we are following after Jesus!
Even if the outer shell doesn’t look that way.