Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Seven Year Shoes: Gratitude and Simplicity

My all-weather mocs have finally worn out! I figured out how old they are by revisiting a post I remembered writing about them (and about the blessing of sister love and gifts) back in 2006.

There is something really satisfying in actually wearing out a pair of shoes, especially when they are good quality shoes that have seen a ton of walking wear. I remember, back in my younger years, feeling sort of in awe of Richard Foster's chapter on the spiritual discipline of simplicity where he talked about wearing out clothes. In my youth, I couldn't quite fathom that. In the past decade and a half, I have not only learned it can be done, I've made a practice of doing it. Granted, I've mostly come to this from the practical fact that we can't afford many clothes, and since I am a) not working outside the house and b) not growing anymore (unless unintentionally because of weight gain, alas) I am the one in our household who can get by with fewer things. But sometimes practical considerations and choices, when they become habits over time, can work their way into our hearts and help us learn and grow. Like the practice of writing and sending a poem to friends during the Advent season, or the practice of cooking mostly meatless meals.

The whole conversation around spiritual disciplines and daily choices can take time to work out in your heart, I think. The sweet girl and I were talking recently about why I first became a vegetarian many years ago (I'm no longer a full vegetarian, but only eat poultry and fish, not red meat or pork). I had a lot of reasons, but one of them was to eat lower on the food chain, partly out of solidarity with hungry people. That's a hard one to explain sometimes, because my eating less will not help anyone eat more -- just as my wearing my clothes longer (not getting hung up on fashion, and wearing things till they wear out) will not clothe anyone who needs clothes. I think it's why we need disciplines of engagement (like works of mercy -- feeding the poor, providing clothes to those in need) along with disciplines of dis-engagement and self-denial.

Any time we learn to do without -- especially if we let it draw us closer to God and to our fellow human beings -- there can be blessings. Doing without, or simplifying, in and of itself, is not necessarily virtuous. You can do without and possess a spirit of envy and discontent or anger. Or you can do without and feel pride in the doing without. We're really good at falling into sin either way, we human beings, even when we're trying our hardest not to. But doing without can also be a window and a place of grace.

It's not always easy. I am super, incredibly thankful for the generous gifts that helped us to get our car fixed recently. Not having a reliable car for two months, while doable, was plain hard. Our family has been there before, and likely will be again, and while I am so grateful for God's provision, I'm also grateful for lessons we learned while walking and riding buses. I'm proud of how my daughter, whose struggles with OCD and anxiety make it very hard for her to embrace change and deal with brokenness, dealt with those two months that were filled with other challenges at the same time.

I'm also learning newfound thankfulness for the people I see all around me who see situations of hardship and choose to walk right into them and do what can be done with love. I think of two dear friends making a difference with a homeless shelter ministry two hours north of me, and a woman in our church, in ministry in the town across the river, who is gathering formula and gift certificates for moms who can't get WIC during the government shut-down. I think of people who will never know how their incredibly timed gifts have sometimes literally fed and clothed my family.

It's so awesome when we become hands and feet for each other in the body of Christ. And it's funny how just looking at a worn out pair of shoes can sometimes be cause for doxology.

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