Too Many Shoes
I came across a funny little story in a magazine the other day:
A man went into a pet shop looking for a pet that was unique. No puppies or kittens for this guy; he wanted something that no one else had. The clerk at the pet store had just the thing – a talking centipede! The man was excited to be buying such an unusual pet. He carefully carried the centipede home in its little house and put it in a safe place so it could get used to its new surroundings.
On Sunday morning, the man asked his new pet if it would like to come along with him to church. He expected to hear something from this talking centipede, but there was no answer from inside the little house. Confused, the man asked again, “Would you like to go to church with me?” Still no answer from inside the tiny house.
The man starts to wonder if he’s been duped by the clerk at the pet store. Is this really a talking centipede? With irritation in his voice, he asks again, “Would you like to come to church with me?” Before he can finish his sentence, a tiny voice is heard from inside the little house. “Hey, buddy, I heard you the first time. Be patient with me. I’m still putting on my shoes!”
Alright. So, whether you laughed at that or groaned a bit, there are points to be taken from this story. One is that we don’t always understand one another’s struggles. Something that’s relatively easy for some of us (like putting on just two shoes!) can be a real struggle for someone else. It’s easy to become impatient with a person who seems to have a hard time doing something that comes easy to us.
There’s even an old saying that you never really know a man (or woman) until you have walked a mile in his (or her) shoes. To stand and walk around in another person’s shoes means to internalize that person’s perspective on life; the pain, the fears, the experiences, the worries and doubts, and what brings that person joy. When we take the time to do this with one another, we start to understand why some people feel like they have a hundred pairs of feet to move around in order just to walk through life.
Maybe there’s a person you know who seems to have “too many shoes;” a person who makes you feel impatient and frustrated. Or perhaps there’s someone in your life who makes you feel angry, or who has disappointed you. There’s plenty of anger and disappointment to go around, especially in this fearful and contentious season of public life.
It may even be that the person you feel most impatient and frustrated with is yourself. In spite of your best efforts and expectations, you find that you’re falling short of the kind of person you want to be, and of what you’d hoped to accomplish in your life.
One of my favorite Scripture passages is Ephesians 3:14-21. The writer of this epistle reminds us that we take our “name,” our value and our worth, from the One who knows what it’s like to walk in our shoes. Through the Incarnation in Christ, God entered into our human condition in love. Regardless of our present life’s circumstances, as we look to Christ, we are being rooted and grounded in that love. That means we have an eternal source of patience and understanding for one another and for ourselves, if we just tap into it.
With prayers for your journey,