I’m out at the lake, finishing a book. It is quiet, beautiful, and, well, “lake-ish.”
At home, I walk in my tennis shoes, but out here I wear my favorite hiking shoes. I love my Merrell’s. They are broken in. They have a steel shank with a good, sturdy sole, and the fit keeps little rocks from finding their way to my feet.
I was walking early one morning, enjoying the cool breezes of what would become a hot day. I had seen deer, birds, flowers, running streams, and one very large frog that I scared to death. I actually jumped too!
I wrote this blog post in my head that morning, as I was hiking, grateful for the shoes on my feet. The point: I have all kinds of shoes, but if I had to choose a pair for a long journey, I would choose my Merrell hiking shoes.
Our journey of faith deserves the best shoes for the trip.
A LIFE OF FAITH REQUIRES APPROPRIATE SHOES
The book I am writing is about finding and maintaining God’s calm regardless of the different moments we encounter in life. I’ve often described our earthly lives as a road trip. Today, let’s think of the journey as a long hike.
The “high-heel” days
Out here at the lake, part of my hike is done on a level, paved road. I could wear a heel, but it would seem kind of silly. I’m not much of a high-heel person, to be honest. If you ever see me in anything but a flat shoe, you can know that I am looking forward to the moment I can go home and find my slippers!
The only time I choose a heel is because I want to “look” a certain way. I’m usually at a fancy dinner that has been scheduled in order to raise money for a good cause. It’s fun to be in the crowd, talk to the people, and support important work. But, there are some people in the room who choose to be there, just to “look” a certain way. There are times in our lives and ministries that are more about making a faithful appearance in a room.
On those high-heeled evenings, I’m reminded that Scripture says, “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:17). In other words, I don’t think we will wear heels in heaven, and, if we do, they will feel comfortable! High-heeled faith has a place in our lives, but not for very long.
Lesson 1: I will have to spend some time in less comfortable shoes, trying to “look” a certain way. But, making appearances isn’t a way to walk through this life with consistent faith. God wants us to be genuine and comfortable in our journey. High heels were made to work well only for those times when the road is flat, paved, and easy. A high-heeled faith wobbles when the ground isn’t smooth.
Our souls are like the soles of our feet. We need to be ready when the road gets rough. High-heeled faith isn’t sustainable.
Stylish shoes may or may not work
I remember my mom talking about “penny loafers.” She had saved up to buy a pair when she was young because they were all the rage.
When I was young, I found a pair of platform shoes that I LOVED. I was working at the mall, and the store let me put those shoes on layaway. A couple of paychecks later, they were mine. I loved those shoes with the espadrille soles, the colorful beads that had been woven in, and the fact that they made me about three inches taller. I remember when my dad saw those shoes. Let’s just say he thought my money would have been better spent elsewhere.
It’s funny how styles change. I used to sit in a pew and listen to the preacher tell me to shape up my faith or it wouldn’t carry me through life. I heard about sins and why I didn’t want to choose them. I heard about heaven, and I also heard about hell. Those sermons made a big difference in my young life. I wanted to be stylish like those outside the church, but even more I wanted to develop a faith that would carry me to heaven.
Styles change, but God does not. Scripture says, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (James 1:17).
To be honest, I see a lot of the trend-chasing churches beginning to falter. I see a lot of the historical churches, changing with the trends, doing the same. It is important to be relevant—if relevance is a better way of speaking what has always been truth. The message of the Bible has not changed. It still means what it has always meant.
Lesson two: It is only good to be stylish if the shoes “fit.” I loved those platform shoes, and, truthfully, I’m really grateful my dad’s words didn’t come true. He told me, “You are going to break your ankle in those things!”
It doesn’t matter if your church is “stylish” if it doesn’t teach a faith that has always been truth. The wrong preaching could cause your faith to “break” someday when the road beneath gets rocky.
The journey was made for hiking shoes
It’s good to be older. People no longer expect me to enter a room wearing high heels very often. No one typically describes my shoes as the most stylish in the room. I choose shoes these days because they are comfortable and able to handle whatever the day brings.
Our faith journey is long and covers moments that are paved and easy. But, everyone’s life journey will have rough patches, hills, and rocks. That is life on earth, and our faith should be able to handle every moment, not just the easy ones.
Some people don’t own a good pair of hiking boots. They are costly, less attractive, and aren’t necessary—most of the time. But for those of us who want to do ministry in a culture that is increasingly “rocky,” we might consider wearing our hiking boots more often.
We don’t get to have a high-heeled faith very often. Those moments are uncomfortable, shallow, and, truthfully, just make us want to go home. We don’t get to have a super-stylish faith most of the time. Styles constantly change, but truth doesn’t. We have been called to speak the ancient truth that is still true today.
People of great faith need to wear hiking boots. Our faith shouldn’t slip very often, no matter what life brings. Our faith should be tied securely on our feet and our soles—our souls—can handle the rocky road ahead.
If our hiking shoes step on toes, it will probably hurt, so we need to be careful how we walk through the world. People will wonder why we wore hiking boots to the ballroom or didn’t attempt to be more “stylish” most of the time. But, if sharing our faith is what matters most, we will want people to know why we choose to wear hiking boots for our faith journey.
I want my faith to be like my Merrell hiking shoes. I want a steel shank so I can handle the rocks more capably. I want a good sole, and a good soul, to keep me steady and strong as I complete the journey. I want my shoes to last because they are well made. My Merrell boots were costly but worth everything I paid.
Is your closet full of shoes that you can only wear for a short time or is it time to purchase and enjoy a good pair of hiking boots?
I’m pretty sure if Jesus could have purchased Merrell hiking boots for his life’s journey, he would have! Let’s do the same. First John 2:6 says, “Whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.”
It’s time to refocus on what truly matters in this world. Our culture needs to be equipped to handle the future. Our Christian culture needs to take some firm stands against things that just aren’t true.
When the times get rocky, we need a good pair of shoes for the journey.