Last Sunday morning I (Julia) woke up after an anxiety-inducing dream.
In my dream I was leading a team of people to a destination I’ve never been to before but I was given directions and a map. We were following a tricky path-narrow passages, windy roads, shadowy alleys and getting through many doors. I was so focused on getting my team to the destination I didn’t realize that somewhere along the way I’d lost my shoes and my camera.
My quick steps came to a halting stop when I looked down and saw my naked feet. I got so scared I wouldn’t be able to continue my journey because my comfortable walking shoes enabled me to keep moving. From that point on I was committed to finding or replacing my shoes even if I had to turn around and walk all the way back. But all of my frantic racing around was in vain-I couldn’t find them. And I couldn’t even think of the fact I’d lost my camera. How will I ever find the money to replace it? It used to bring me so much joy and excitement but now it’s irretrievably lost. In one journey I’ve lost two things that mattered so much: something I needed and something I loved.
The dream wouldn’t lose it’s grip on me throughout the day. I felt so defeated. It came so unexpected, there seemed to be no indication that my ability to move forward was compromised. I was trying to consider everything around me in a reasonable light but I was feeling emotional and finally I turned to God for explanations. “What does it all mean? Why can’t I keep moving forward just when I thought I was on the right track and picking up speed? Why are there always so many obstacles on my way? I can’t keep walking without my shoes! They are what enable me to walk!!”
All of a sudden I heard his voice saying to me, “You’ve lost your shoes, you haven’t lost your feet.”
Those words were enough to bring balance to my racing heart and emotions. My mind turned to a scene of the book I’ve recently read “The Hunger Games.” In the story the heroine, Katniss Everdeen, was forced to play in a reality game in the futuristic country of Panem that replaced the North America we know. In the game she was compelled to fight for her survival for the entertainment of the rich and the powerful. Early in the game she gets badly burned but has no choice but to ignore the pain to climb a tree to escape her pursuers. Her hands are in excruciating agony yet she keeps going up because her life is literally dependent on it. Would I be able to do the same if my life was hanging in the balance? I’d like to believe I have the same fighting spirit in me. Do I?
That scene brought me back to my dream. It was clear that I’d lost my shoes some time before I noticed it but I kept going. However as soon as I’d realized the loss I got paralyzed in fear. Why in the world did I think that I couldn’t keep moving forward just because I’d lost my shoes? Is it impossible? No. Will it hurt? Most likely yes. Was I really so wrong in thinking that something is so essential to my success is nearly an accessory? My feet and my strong and capable body enable me to keep making progress and moving forward, my shoes merely make my walk more comfortable. How many more things in life do I consider a necessity while they are no more than trifles that make my life run smoother? In the end, the verse that came to my rescue was, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach good news.” The feet not the shoes.
I’ve written about the life of sacrifice I feel Jesus had asked me to live in the past. I’ve accepted it but in each step I take towards him I discover new depth in what it truly means. It’s not always the obvious what has to go. I can’t just look at someone else’s life and copy it to make it pleasing for him. I can’t be another Mother Teresa or Heidi Baker. Our souls are different, our lives are different; so will be our sacrifices. Most of the things worth having are brought in the world with a good amount of pain and discomfort. Why then do we measure our lives by the “blessings” like steady job, security and popularity? In other words, everything that is designed to protect us from any traces of discomfort.
We get so consumed by thinking that we just need one more thing to really, passionately serve God. But God isn’t calling us to be obedient in some idealized future. He is calling us to be obedient here today in the middle of our incompleteness. Like Paul discovered, it’s when we are weak, tired, and at the end of our strength that we get to see God’s strength.