Hebrews 10:34 (ESV)
When I was home during the holidays in my early years of college I drove to San Clemente and bought my first pair of Rainbow Sandals straight from the factory. They remind me of home for a number of reasons, one reasons specifically is that we lived in San Clemente for a short period before we moved to Switzerland. I was pretty excited. They were so cool! They were so nice! In my mind, there is no finer sandal in the world. Once you break them in they take on the shape of your foot and are really comfortable. I selected the pair I wanted, the one that was perfect. The leather had no defects, the fit was just right, etc.
Maybe a week later I was out in the rain with my new pair of Rainbows. They can handle a little bit of water, they’re Rainbows. I got home and let them dry out overnight. The following day I went to put them on and nearly passed out. The leather had shrunk, pulling the sole tight into a concave shape. Much worse, the surface of the leather became shriveled. It didn’t have that smooth leathery feel. The sole looked lumpy like a prune. Mine must be defective. I need to get a new pair. The problem was that I was going back to college on the east coast in a couple of days. No time to drive back to San Clemente and exchange them. The rep over the phone (yeah, I was so distressed I actually called them) told me it happens when they get wet, but they’d be fine. They weren’t fine. They weren’t the same. I wanted them the way I bought them. I wanted to put my foot imprint in them!! Now the rain, which God sent, ruined them.
See where I’m going with this?
This silly story was really big for me. It showed me my shallowness and where God began to deal with it. I wanted things to be just so, but they weren’t. They weren’t just so. Things were all wrong!
God had already spoken to me about this need for perfection in my life before, but now he had made it more personal than ever. I knew he was doing this to change my character, so begrudgingly I listened to what he was telling me. John, it’s not that big of a deal. They’re just sandals. Stop wigging out. I have more important things in store. It’ll be ok. Ok God, I trust you.
In Hebrews 10:34 we read an amazing statement about the early church: “You joyfully accepted the plundering of your property.” This phrase was first introduced to me by some wonderful friends of mine at the late Charleston House of Prayer (affectionately known as CHOP by volunteers and the city’s poor and homeless). The word “plundering” can also be translated to “spoiling.” Though I think plundering is more accurate in the context of the verse, I think spoiling works just as well. The idea is that we get joy in all circumstances. When God gives we rejoice. When God takes away we rejoice. Life becomes less about how things look, because they aren’t the things giving us life. God gives us life.
Jackie Pullinger told the story of how she lived in a tiny little room during her stay in the Kowloon Walled City of Hong Kong. It was suggested that she get a bigger, more suitable room, but it was never about the room to her. I’m sure the conditions could have been better, but she was able to find joy simply following Jesus.
From then on, they became known as my humility sandals. They would serve to remind me that things didn’t have to be perfect. I could accept and enjoy things with flaws. Eventually these lessons would go beyond flip-flops and translate to more important issues, like accepting flawed situations, and people… even myself.
I committed to wearing them. I wasn’t going to throw them out. As I wore them they began to smooth out, to transform. I had that same pair of sandals for years. Everyone thought I was odd for continuing to wear them after they developed several holes. I eventually threw them out, but they were special to me. It wasn’t about them being perfect either. It was the flaws and scars that made them unique, that gave them character, that made them special in their own ways.
The question is whether or not we’re going to stick with the sandals God has given us.
What are your humility sandals? What things haven’t turned out the way you would have them? What things are you tempted to dump that God is leading you to stick with?