Two years ago my husband and I and our two kids flew to Germany to visit my sister and her family for two weeks. I prepared for weeks, planning, purchasing and finally packing two weeks’ worth of clothing and shoes in a small carry-on. Having traveled with my husband off and on over twenty years of marriage I knew the most important item in my bag was my shoes. I could forget just about anything else and survive, but the shoes were non-negotiable. To leave without them would set the trip up for misery before it even started. But the shoes I needed were not just any shoes. They had to be able to withstand hours, and I mean hours, of uninterrupted walking.
Though my husband and I both love to travel, we have different opinions as to how it should be done. For instance, compared to my husband I am a lazy traveler. My goal is to arrive at my destination as quickly as possible. I want no layovers, not a lot of stopping for bathroom breaks or eating. And if you must eat while en route, bring your own food. It’s cheaper and timesaving. Once there I want to park myself on a beach or in a café sipping coffee and people watching. That’s all. I’m not interested in seeing anything historical or artsy-fartsy. I just want to eat the local food, drink coffee and be.
My husband is completely different, of course. He’s like a bear having awakened from a long winter’s nap ready to hunt and attack. He’s starving for culture, adventure and has an unnatural desire to learn stuff. What this translates to be is lots of walking. For our trip to Disney several years ago, he had a three-page itinerary for a seven-day vacation. By day five, we were all begging for mercy. He let us have one day off to swim.
I knew Germany, and any place we went on this particular trip, would be no different. Probably worse. So I shopped and researched for the best shoes I could afford. I pictured myself skipping and running from place to place, my feet barely touching the ground because I had on a good pair of shoes. Finally, I’d be able to keep up with my husband. I was going to Forest Gump my way through Western Europe.
We spent two and a half days in Prague immersing ourselves in the culture. It was awesome, but by the end of day one we were, once again, begging for mercy. For hours we walked all over the city, across the Charles Bridge, over to the place where Mission: Impossible was filmed; through the Jewish section of Prague. We saw statues and historical monuments, churches and a flea market, took a boat ride and climbed the stairs to a fake Eiffel Tower. By evening we were tired and my feet were screaming. The shoes I’d spent so much money on were worthless. I couldn’t understand it. They had a puma on them. They were supposed to make me stealthy and light footed like a cat.
What was worse, my only other option was leather flip-flops. Flip flops for heaven’s sake! I got them several years prior for $5 at a consignment store. If my expensive Puma’s couldn’t carry me through Europe, there was no way these could either.
Having no other choice, the next day I slipped my feet into my summer footwear and hoped for the best. Oddly enough, by the end of the day my feet were not hurting. I couldn’t figure it out. They were old and flip-flops and nothing to look at and not the least bit exciting. But they were tried and true and had formed to my feet after years of wear.
Last week I talked about how for months I had been sensing that God was shaking things up at my house, like He was getting us ready for a move. I thought the move was Texas. It wasn’t. Then another possibility popped up, and I was sure this was it. It wasn’t. Had I completely misread God? Was my relationship with him so shallow that I mistook a “feeling” of His moving in our lives as something that it wasn’t? What was going on? And then it hit me like ocean waves crashing against rock; so loud and obvious I almost missed it. What I thought was going to be a geographical change or a career move for us, ended up being something far more valuable: a change in perspective.
What we thought was a need for physical, tangible change turned out to be a deeper need to get off the rabbit trail of complaining and frustration. We needed to get back on the straight and narrow to a life of service seeped in gratitude; a life lived for Someone above our petty frustrations and ourselves. I reasoned that a move was in order because our lives had become so routine we could do life here with our eyes closed. They were closed all right; closed to all that God had given us and opened only to the negative.
A good marketing campaign does two things: it enlightens you to something you didn’t know you needed until it was marketed to you; and two, it breeds discontentment with what you already have. I’ve often said that I could be perfectly content until I walk into a store. Within minutes of browsing I’ve suddenly found twenty things that I can’t live without and am now completely depressed and ungrateful for what I have hanging in my closet.
I didn’t need those overpriced shoes for my trip to Europe. Sure, they were new, name brand and had a cat on them promising things no pair of shoes could ever deliver. Instead, I already had what I needed: my old faithful, $5 leather flip flops that have been worn so much they are a natural extension of my feet in summer. I often wonder what I’ll do when they finally wear out. Our life here is no different. It fits like well-worn leather shoes. It’s familiar like a book that’s been read so much the spine is broken and the pages are torn. It works. It’s home.
Suffice it to say, my eyes are wide open to what God has done, is doing and will do in our lives. We are no longer looking for jobs and locations, or even money, beyond what God has provided.
“Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, ‘children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.’ Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life” (Phil. 2:12).
Jesus is perspective.