So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
Yesterday I went for a barefoot walk on the trail behind our house. I've been dealing with something called "plantar fasciitis," where a spot under your foot near your heel becomes really sore. It often comes from excessive running, though how I got it, I have no idea (that's a joke. It's definitely from excessive running).
Anyway, walking barefoot is something that physical therapists say can help. I'm usually not a barefoot guy because I have serious texture issues, and because the bottoms of my feet are like delicate little flowers. But I decided to throw caution to the wind and go for it.
Oh goodness. My little journey was painful and slow. Each of my careful steps had sticks and leaves underneath it, and every now and then I hit a small thorn branch, despite my best efforts. Normally I just crush ahead, but this time I had to be so much more aware of what was under my feet-- and I felt all of it. For that reason, I had to walk slowly and carefully in a new way. I think I only made it a quarter mile! But strangely, it also felt good.
Now I still like shoes and plan to continue to wear them most of the time. But I'm thinking about the tendency we have to protect ourselves from the feelings of life in a way that limits our healing.
Deeper discipleship with Jesus should always lead us to deeper vulnerability. As our experience of God's grace grows, we become more aware of what we are feeling, and more willing to walk through some of the more uncomfortable emotions. We embrace a slower life of awareness, rather than rushing over moments that might be painful. In other words, we learn to be barefoot more often.
Yes, shoes can protect us so that we don't get paralyzed when life feels covered with rocks and thorns. But we can also put on shoes of self protection that do not lead to true movement. Alcohol can become the go-to stress relief. Complaining and analyzing others becomes our way of ignoring the critical spirit that needs to be healed in us. Doing lots of church activities makes us feel good while possibly ignoring a lack of connectedness with the living God. Keeping an overfilled schedule can cover over the chance to have deeper, slow conversations with people. And endless stream of tv shows fills up every opportunity for self -reflection or meaningful connection with others.
Jesus is a safe place to land, and a slow pace to walk alongside. We are able to take off whatever shoes we've been wearing when we are in relationship with him. We are free to feel in deep ways, and it's ok if our pace slows down quite a bit because of it. There is healing in that journey.
So it's a meaningful question to ask ourselves... what shoes are we wearing these days that need to be removed for a bit? Where is Jesus inviting you to slow down and feel things a bit more, so that you don't get injured?
This lent season is as good a time as any to be still and rest in God's love, and slowly work through painful stuff that you've refused to allow yourself to feel. Even if you're not injured, regularly acknowledging what feelings are swirling around inside you will always open the door for Jesus to bring transformation, hope, and maturity.
One more thing. If you go for a barefoot walk, make sure you clean your feet before you re-enter the house. That's not a metaphor. I just got into trouble for it, so I figured I'd pass on the hard-learned wisdom.
Jesus, lead me down the path of righteousness and healing, regardless of how slow or painful it may feel. I know you're walking beside me, no matter the pace.