It’s a winter Sunday morning, the week before Christmas. I get ready for church as usual. I’m running a few minutes late, but as I leave the house, I take a self-assessment. I feel cute. I’m wearing a gray sweater dress with my old, comfortable cowboy boots from college. I feel “Nashville-hip”, which is good, because my church is in Nashville and it’s very hip. I want to fit in.
Arriving a few minutes late, I sneak into the dark auditorium and savor the lights and the upbeat Christmas music. The sermon starts out well. It’s a nice message about loving everyone with text from the parable of The Good Samaritan. Then, the pastor starts challenging us about who we love and how we love. He challenges us not to place limits on our love. He shows a video about children in Africa with no shoes. There are 300 million people in the world with no access to footwear. He challenges us to “go and do likewise” as the parable states in Luke 10:37.
I am starting to get uncomfortable. What is he going to ask us to do? Throughout the service, I caught myself admiring my cute, old cowboy boots. I probably have over fifty pairs of shoes at home, but these are my favorite. Then, our pastor drops the bomb. He asks us if we would be willing to leave the shoes we are wearing at church today. He asks us to donate our shoes in the lobby and leave church on this cold December day with no shoes. As soon as he says it, I know that God is asking me to give up my beloved cowboy boots.
I immediately start rationalizing. Those people in Africa do not need my cowboy boots. How impractical would that be? I have a box at home full of shoes that I have already planned to donate to Goodwill. I’ll just bring those to donate instead. Deep in my heart, I know that God wants to teach me a lesson. As usual, I’m being stubborn. I walk out of that church wearing my cowboy boots—in addition to a little guilt and shame.
Arriving back home, I cannot stop thinking about what God asked me to do. I realize that although I give money to church and volunteer my time, I really don’t give up anything that hurts me too much. I play it safe. I start thinking about the rich young man in Matthew 19:22. I remember how he “walked away sad” because he couldn’t do what Jesus asked him to do. When I left church this morning, I walked away sad.
Right then, I decide what I need to do. I must be obedient in this small thing. God is asking me to do this, not for him, but for myself and for my relationship with him. Our church has a 6pm evening service which is a repeat of the morning services.
I get ready for church . . . again.
I put on my cowboy boots . . . again.
I drive to church and walk into the service . . . all over again.
I sing and worship and let the pastor’s message wash over me, again. Then, I walk out into the lobby, take off my “Nashville-hip” cowboy boots, and walk outside into the cold December air with no shoes.
I drive home very much at peace—and not a bit sad.
(Copyright, Allison at Anointed With Grace, 01/17/2011)