Being away from school as I am this year, I find the deluge of emails left to wade through about the daily on-goings of seminary almost insurmountable at times. While everyone else is heading off to bed back in the Midwest, I wake up to find 30+ emails! Normally, I take a brief glance and quickly trash them, but a string of emails, to which I have merely been a spectator, caught my eye the other day.
I don’t know the background, but it appears that there has been, and is continuing to be, conversation concerning hats and shoes—particularly, when and where they are and are not worn. And it started me thinking about the many ‘hats’ we wear in life, or, perhaps more applicable in my case, the many ‘shoes’ we don along the journey.
And so, today, I share would like to share with you the many ‘shoes’ of the shoeless seminarian. For, although it may surprise you, there were no less than eight pairs of shoes that made it into my allotted 100 pounds of luggage this year. Some are more presentable than others, some more practical, some more frivolous, but somehow they all seemed necessary when push came to shove.
The Running Shoes
First of all, the running shoes. These are the shoes that, for me at least, carry great hopes. Those hopes never quite seem to come to fruition, yet the running shoes continue to carry the idea of ‘hope’.
If I pack them, I will go running three times a week, I will explore my surroundings, I will take that time for myself…
But they’re also a symbol of the busy and ‘running’ lifestyle that is so easy to fall into. Am I really doing my job if I don’t need to don a pair of ‘running’ shoes to keep up? Can I really be productive if I’m curled up on the couch reading a book? If I’m not multi-tasking, does it count?
And I have to ask: Can these two types of ‘shoes’ really be one in the same? Can my running shoes at once stand for both my own health and wellness AND work?
Poor, poor confused shoes.
The Sturdy and Dependable Black Viking Rain Boots (or Wellies, if you like)
The newest shoes to join the family, I gave in and purchased my rain boots on my last day off. Like many of you, I hadn’t owned rain boots since I was a young child, and, although they held a fond place in my memory, I never thought I would own a pair again.
Three weeks living in Norway changed my mind.
There have been a couple of days filled with nothing but clear blue skies, but more often times it seems that the days are a mixture of sun and rain. My jeans and skirts and shoes have been soaked more than once already. And with Fall in full swing, I’m told that that’s not about to change. Besides, rain boots are everywhere! Not the cute and flowery ones that made their appearance a couple of years ago, but black and green ones. Tough ones. It’s not only the hunting stores that stock adult sizes; almost every shoe store has one or two pair of serviceable rain boots. It’s not only the backpacking, mountain climbing type that wears them; it’s the most fashionable men and women. Rain boots are not a frivolity in Norway, they are a part of life. And therefore, they are a new pair in the many pairs of shoes that I find myself wearing.
And you know what? I like them! Yes, they’re black and rubber. They may not be considered ‘cute’. But on the inside, where no one but me will ever see, they’re a green tartan. And they make me feel fun and fancy-free like those long-ago memories of mud puddles.
And, well… they make me feel safe.
The world around me may get mucky. I am more than likely to get mired down. But in my new ‘shoes’, I feel secure. They will not be ruined; they will not be sucked in; they will not be lost; they are made for the purpose of walking with me through the gunk. They are not afraid of the muck and the mire.
The ‘Presiding Shoes’
And then there are my ‘Presiding Shoes’. Yes, I know, I am only an intern, I am not an ordained pastor, I do not preside over the sacraments, but my worship and liturgy professor once talked about her ‘presiding shoes’.
Flat and black, they do not call attention to themselves; they do not click-click; they pose problems neither to my alb nor to the steps in the sanctuary. They do not shout out ‘ME! LOOK AT ME!!’ but help me to fulfill my role. They do not proclaim me, but hopefully they support me in proclaiming of the word of God. And I’m much less likely to break an ankle while wearing them than I am when I attempt to walk in stilettos.
The Patent-leather Ruby Red Slippers
Just in case you thought all the ‘shoes’ I wore were serviceable and boring! These shoes are just plain fun. Maybe they weren’t all that ‘necessary’ to the packing process, but some days you just don’t want to wear your black shoes, and you just don’t want to wear your brown shoes. Therefore, the shoeless seminarian needs a pair of red shoes!
The problem is, although they’re shiny and fun, they don’t quite fit. My feet slide around in them. There’s not that much support. And, they tend to give me a blister…
The Worn but Warm Fuzzy Boots
mmm… But then there’s the boots you simply want to cuddle up with!
These boots have been with me since my winter in the mountains of Austria. A Christmas present from my Grandma, they have lived through many memorable moments:
-There was the great big snowstorm when we got two feet of snow and, despite the boot’s protection; I ended up with snow both inside and out.
-There was the trip to the salt mines in Bavaria with the really cool wooden slides!
-There was the ice storm last winter and the subsequent ‘let’s all try to get the ice off our cars together’ Party that ensued.
-They came to the wedding of two of my best friends last December.
-Oh, and there was that really embarrassing moment when I looked at the tag inside of the boots and freaked out because it said that the lining was wool, and here I thought I had bought a real pair of sheepskin boots! Unfortunately, it took a little while for me to realize that since wool comes from shearing the wool of sheep… umm… yeah…
They’re not as pristine as they once were. I have scuffed up the toes. The insides are a bit matted. I spilled fabric softener all over then last fall. But none of that matters. They’re still the boots that I pull on when the snow mounts or the temperature dips. They’re still the boots that I know I can count on to keep me warm and dry.
The Favorite Shoes
Finally, as you might have guessed from the name of my blog, these are the ‘shoes’ that you are most likely to find me in.
Dirty and callused as they are, these are my favorite shoes, and if I could wear them every day, I would. I don’t wear them to make a statement, to be annoying, or to offend you. They may not look pretty, they may not look clean, and they may not look ‘presentable’. But they are the most free, the most grounded, the most vulnerable, the most me.
By the time I was three my parents had realized that shoes and me were a losing battle. In the grand scheme of things, they figured that there were more important things they wished to instill in me.
And these really are the most amazing ‘shoes’. When dirtied, they can be washed; when wet, they can be dried; and although they wrinkle, they never need ironing. They even adjust to their surroundings, hardening their soles to the rough ground.
I never have learned to play my violin or viola when my soles can’t touch the ground. When I try to play with shoes the music just comes out all wrong, as if my emotions are closed in like my feet.
And although shoelessness is my norm, it doesn’t mean that I am impenetrable to comments about my behavior. Some days it takes more courage than I have to let my dirty and callused feet show. Some days I just want to cover them up and blend in.
Some days I feel like I need to be a shoed individual to be acceptable.
On those days I long for the one who does not look upon my feet and say, ‘Cover those up, you’re disgusting!’ On those days I long for the one who says nothing at all. On those days I long for the one who, stooping down, takes those dirty and callused, those sometimes smelly and disgusting feet in his hands, and tenderly washes them, wiping away the dirt and the grime with his own towel.
The best of shoes can hide whatever we perceive to be our imperfections. The best of shoes can attempt to shore up our insecurities. But the freedom that comes from knowing my feet are washed clean day after day after day, that is better than the best of shoes.
10 years ago