August 1, 2013
Shoes that fit.
When I was younger (OK, much younger) I played a bit of baseball. In fact, I loved baseball and to this day I catch glimpses or smells that transport me back to those younger days. I remember the smell of a man who smoked cigars at almost every little league game. There are times when I smell a cigar and if I am stepping just right I become 12 years old in my mind. Amazing how our smells can elicit such strong memories.
One baseball experience I had came from a friend who taught me how to break in baseball cleats. For you who have never worn baseball cleats it can be an awkward experience. My ankles are scarred from where the cleats hit my feet during those first days of spring training each year. Anyway, this friend told me to put on my cleats on a warm Saturday, step in to a bucket of water, soak the shoes, tie them relatively tight, and then spend the day in the shoes. “Let them dry to your foot,” he said. Personally, I thought the guy was crazy but also thought it might help. Long story short, it was the best fitting pair of shoes I had ever worn. They had dried shaped to my foot.
Several words of caution. 1) Do not do this during winter in Jackson Hole. 2) Only do this if you have the financial resources to buy another pair of shoes just in case it does not work for you. 3) Only do this if you have the time to allow the shoes to conform to your foot.
So, what is it like returning to Jackson Hole after having been gone for nearly 2 months? In many ways it is like stepping into a pair of shoes that have been conformed to my feet. Home is home. Gordon and Gail Stevenson did a wonderful job cleaning it in preparation for their departure and our return (I can only hope we did as well). The computers work, the car works, the television works, the stereo system is fine, the art work is still in place, the bed is still comfy, we have returned to our home. Shoes that fit.
We went by church yesterday and it had thrived under Pastor Ben’s marvelous leadership and grown under Gordon’s inspirational instruction. As Terri and I walked in we were greeted by Bill Hungate and Jo Holton, familiar faces and good friends. The chairs were in their same rows, new photos of Tierra Nueva had been added to the mission wall, the baptismal pictures on the hall wall were still the same (even though someone had suggested taking pictures of Gordon and pasting his head over mine), the JOY program was still being run effectively,… It felt right. Shoes that fit.
We drove into town and it was the same. The town was busy with tourists, road construction, yet remarkably green from summer thunderstorms. We went to the Post Office and went to the same mail boxes with the same solicitations and a few notes from friends. We went to China Town for lunch with Cameron and there saw the same staff and a few familiar faces. The home, the town, the church where we have spent so much of life are shoes that fit.
Here is what is remarkable to me, in 5 weeks Terri and I felt the same fit beginning to form in Dunbar. We started to call “The Manse,” home. We started seeing friends on the street and saying hello. Terri even went into Edinburgh one day with a couple of the girls and while walking through a store heard her name called, by a new friend from the church. Roundabouts had become easy. Driving on the left hand side of the road didn’t feel so much like the “wrong side” of the road. We had jumped into our new community with both feet, gotten our shoes wet and they had begun to conform and become comfortable. They were becoming shoes that fit.
Maybe there is a truth here that we need to recognize: If you can jump in with both feet there will be a fit. If you find that a fit is not happening then it probably is the wrong place or the wrong time.
Maybe there is a spiritual truth here we need to recognize as well. I am reminded of Jesus’ words in John 15:7.
If you abide in me and my words abide in you, you may ask whatever you will and it will be done for you.
That word “abide” means fit, like a foot in a shoe. My foot had to abide in those cleats in that risky and initially an uncomfortable process. But, no matter how new and uncomfortable, as the shoe began to dry it became conformed to my foot with shoe and foot becoming teammates.
In Romans 8:29 the Apostle Paul used a very Presbyterian/Church of Scotland word, predestined. Even though I believe this word is often misused or not understood, in this verse it has a powerful message for understanding God’s goal of what it means to allow the foot of God, Jesus, to be inserted into the shoe of our lives. Here is what he says:
For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
How do we become conformed “to the likeness of God’s son?” by jumping in, by abiding, by allowing Jesus to put his foot into the soul of our lives and letting our shoe become conformed to his image.
May we become a shoe that fits onto the foot of our Lord.