From Tattered Boots to Sandals of Righteousness
Many years ago, I drove River Road to pick you up for a bite to eat. No matter how old I get my heart always misses you. Upon my arrival, there you stood dressed in your finest camouflage. As we neared the restaurant I could see your unease about something.
“What is it, Uncle James?” I asked.
You looked down at your tattered and worn boots before mumbling something about the dirty state of your boots. That was an easy fix, I pulled into Walmart and bought you a new pair. Before you took those old shoes off one last time, I will never forget what you said.
“These boots have walked many a mile. I have walked through the woods in them, and they have helped me carry out many a deer after hunting. They have been with me as I skinned many a fish. These old boots are surely wore out but they been some good ones.” I watched with tears filling my eyes at the beauty of the words you spoke. You picked up the new box and began to put the worn pair into it.
“What are you going to do with them?” I questioned.
Without hesitation you replied with a chuckle, “Throw them away, they aren’t worth nothing now.”
Oh but they were worth something to me so I kept them. Those boots might have looked tattered and torn, but to me they personified My Uncle James. They reminded me just how many miles you have walked in this old world, how many paths, creeks and riverbanks they had accompanied you on. They made me reminisce about the days you came home so tired from a long day of work, then fishing to the point you collapsed from exhaustion on the couch. I couldn’t have been more than 3 or 4 but I would crawl up and lovingly unlace your boots before slipping them off your feet. I used to daydream about what adventures they must have saw that day. Even then I knew the importance of your shoes. I knew you would need them to be strong enough to endure mud, water and rocky terrain. I prayed daily in my child’s heart that those shoes might keep you safe. Then I would snuggle up to your chest that smelled like the forest, pine needles and fresh air. I would fall asleep in such a peace that I couldn’t describe. You were my comfort then, my assurance in an uncertain world.
Fifteen years later, I still have those boots. I have kept them like a treasure for they come from the feet of a man I hold dearest to my heart. I pulled them out today, Uncle James. Tears began to pool in my eyes as I stood in awe and wonder as I gazed upon the state those boots were in. Mud covered them, around the seams I could see the thread starting to loose, and the cloth on them was cracked. I wondered how long you wore them in that condition before seeing fit to get a new pair. I thought of a lot of things, how you always put yourself last, and our family first. How no matter how tired you were you always managed to put food on the table even if that meant fishing after a long day working in the sun. I clasped those boots to my chest and wept. My tears flooded my cheeks as I thought of days gone by but the true thing that touched the depth of my soul was the irony and significance of those boots.
You see the man who used to wear them, he isn’t here anymore. I loved that man, despite the things he might have thought he failed at…he never failed at loving me. He was a good man, doing the best he knew how to take care of us. But I did not grieve for him for the man that stepped into the righteous shoes of God somehow overshadows the man before him. God knew all those years ago that one day you would strap on a pair of shoes, shoes of righteousness, shoes of peace, shoes made for dancing in God’s presence.
My whole life you were the best fishermen I knew, but don’t you see God wanted more? He knew you could catch fish to feed us and we never went hungry physically. Yet the Lord saw a hunger in this world and said, “I am going to make this mighty fisherman, satisfy the hunger in a world where people are spiritually starving.”
And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” Mark 1:17. You see, Uncle James when you cast your net this time you caught me and reeled me in. The food you had fed me before had long since dissipated. All these years later, I followed you into a church building where God fed me spiritually so that I will hunger no more.
And the angel said to him, Dress yourself and put on your sandals.” And he did so. And he said to him, “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.” Acts 12:8
What a miraculous thing he has done in you. He has cloaked you in his armour and put sandals of righteousness upon your feet. I no longer have to worry about what condition your boots are in for the shoes upon your feet will never wear out.
It reminded me of the long journey you endured to get here, just as the Israelites as they wondered the desert.
“These wineskins were new when we filled them, and behold, they have burst. And these garments and sandals of ours are worn out from the very long journey.” Joshua 9:13 When we walk in the world all things lose their newness and began to fall apart…the Lord doesn’t want us to wear tarnished clothes weathered from this world instead he wants this….
But the father said to his servants, “Bring quickly the BEST robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet.” Luke 15:22
Long ago before Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice, He gave us this promise.
John answered them all saying, “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirt and with fire.”
Reading that scripture took me back to my childhood and me unlacing your shoes. But the shoes you wear now, they cannot be unlaced for they are anointed with the holy spirit. When you buried that old man in the water, I didn’t cry for the man you left behind……I leapt for joy, I danced in rejoicing for the new man came forth. A man who has the full armour of the Lord upon him. A man who can stand upright, who can share the love of God with others, who can find rest in the Lord when he is weary! I say to you this day, you have washed the dirt from your feet, your long trek through the desert is over. I thank the Lord that my Uncle James’s feet are now covered with sandals that can endure forever….for the God has taken you from the desert and brought you to a place of milk and honey. How amazing that we now get to walk in the newness of God? Thank you, Uncle James for all the sacrifices you made for our family. Thank you, for being obedient unto the Lord when He lovingly took your hand and told you to come be refreshed and washed clean because in doing so you were a light to me. I never dreamed there would be a day that our family would be together again…oh but God did. When I am feeling defeated I need only look in front of me to see your blue eyes beaming with a light that comes only from the Holy Spirit. I never thought I could love you more but somehow I do. Thank you, Almighty God for transforming the man that lit up my life as a child into a man who is a light to the world. So, today I am thanking my Father for bringing the only father figure I have ever truly known to the throne where he can dwell at the feet of the King of Kings!!!!!!!!
I love you!