I have wide feet. I know that’s not much of a confession, but it’s true. One of the negative aspects of playing sports at a private Christian high school was scrounging through my dad’s closet twice a week for dress shoes and ties on game days. And my dad would often get upset because though our numeric shoe size was the same, I would stretch out his shoes whenever I borrowed them. The hardships of wide feet. And of course, having a very common shoe size to start with, my usual trips to buy shoes when the old ones have disintegrated failed me again, as the limited number of tennis shoes on clearance in my size usually didn’t include that beautiful “W” next to the size number on the label.
A few months ago for my birthday, though, I scored some shoes that were not only in my price range, but were also made for the broad-footed. I could feel my toes stretching out to a comfortable level, my foot filling the shoe in a perfect embrace. I didn’t think I could ever go back to those thin shoes again.
But of course, I did. My other shoes were still the normal size. And now I had years of bad foot training in that crammed space. My toes didn’t want to stretch out to a comfortable length, walking was awkward as I felt I had an extra half a shoe on the side of my feet, and I noticed the awkard tilt my feet had acquired when I walked. I actually had to think about how I walked and the comfort and joy of those new shoes had all but vanished.
As disciples of Jesus, we often struggle to fill the new identity we have been given as the adopted heirs of God, accepted before him, lavished with love and grace, freed from sin and self. Like the new shoes, we struggle to find our fit in this new family, this new awkward body of Christ we have been born into. The first initial moments of joy at our newfound peace with God and entrance into his kingdom are soon overcome with the awkward feeling as we naturally walk with a tilt towards sin and years of habitual selfishness and idolatrous patterns built into our muscle memory.
But of course, I haven’t gotten rid of my new shoes. I’ve worn them more often, began to walk correctly, began to rehabilitate my feet to the space. And neither do we quit as followers of Christ to “Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. ” (Ephesians 5:1-2) Learning after Christ is filled with missteps, relapses into our old selfish patterns. Just look at what we read about the original 12 disciples in the Gospels or the early churches in the letters. But don’t give up. Have patience with others who are trying on new shoes that you’ve grown accustomed to wearing years ago.