I walk by them every day as I exit and enter the space that houses the feet that move them. The shoes on the shelf. There are seven sets of feet that saunter to and fro daily from this sacred space. Feet attached to legs, knit together with torsos, set under beautiful eyes, moving about with part of my heart in their bodies. They are mine think I, with foolish thoughts of a mother type fool. A still small voice whispers quickly and faintly…. No – they are Mine. I stand as I often find myself, gently corrected…. surveying the shelf in the storage of my mind. Oh, the shoes that shod the feet of the hearts I hold. The soles move the souls that I birthed, adopted, inherited, married and embraced. They take them each day from my arms, but never from His. They move about to this and that, through many dangers, toils, and snares. Through things which I could not prevent, even if I were ever present. They protect tender toes, but He, tender souls. They shelter and cushion from the forces that could freeze, pierce, bruise, scrap and break the feet that move them. They are muddy, scraped, missing, scattered and growing increasingly larger with each passing season.
Of the seven, there are three sets that remain stable in size. They warn me that though they change with the fluxes of fashion, form, and weather… the time is coming when they step off the shelf rather firmly and permanently. This springs fresh salt water to the rims of the things I see from… sliding secretly inside my nose – it hurts. These are toes I counted when they, so fresh from God arrived in my life. They will scatter, I see it now even as summer graciously give way to autumn; the leaves are turning colour as sandals give way to stronger soles. Those toes that never touched the ground, I kissed them daily, trimmed the paper thin nails, played This Little Piggy up to the roundest of tummies. I remember them all… tucked into my heart are they, those toes, those tender souls. Souls stuffed into soles that have since the time they could, walked in increasingly larger circles from me.
Of the seven sets of soles, I see one man type; work boots worn, requiring replacement from the relentless running; running to serve, running to provide, running to protect, running to care. These are the soles that I suspect and secretly pray will remain next to mine on the shelf the longest. They house a tender soul, with tough soles. These are the feet I lay down with each night, the feet that are always warm next to my terminally cold ones. The same feet I, like Ruth of old, lay down at many years ago – with his cloak he covered me. Those same feet have worked ceaselessly to fill the storehouses for me and the other five stacks of shoes on the shelf. I think of those full-grown manly toes… eyes prink again with pin-like tears. Does he know my heart aches for the little one he was? Does he know if I could have kissed each baby boy toe and cradled his sweet soul I would have? Does he know that his soles would never have touched the ground until his soul was ready- so many years ago? He would have been stronger if he could have been tender and not tough. I would have loved elasticity and resiliency into him. There is only One who can turn back time… it is not I.
It is to my shame that I have complained about the shoes on the shelf… so many sets, thrown, scattered, smelly, multiplied and mutilated. I secretly adore they are there; I would be stricken if one set went missing. I would never stop seeking the soul within the soles. I soberly feel for the briefest of moments a fragment of the depths of a good Father for His children. I share the grief of His heart when one set of soles wanders away or runs defiantly straight into destruction. I feel physical pain just under my lungs, close to my back. Perish the thought. I cannot stay here long, it hurts too much.
I have a tiny shoe on another shelf, it is just over forty years old. Just one shoe… I have no idea where the other one went. It is a baby boot, apparently mine. Sent to me by my mother a few years ago. She must have somehow kept it when I was taken from her beaten and broken breast. It was the last of my shoes she saw on her shelf, not to return until my feet had grown larger than hers. A torrent of tears cascades down my forty year face. For the shoes not bought; for the toes not tickled; for feet never shod; for the shelf that sat bare; for the mother clutching the last of her baby’s shoes; for the shoeless babe who ran alone.
I cannot help but think in a circular way of the shoeless feet, pierced with iron; feet that came fitted with the gospel of peace – nailed to a cross. I wander to the women who wept at his feet washing off the dirt with her tears, anointing Him with flowing, fragrant oil. I wonder if the scent lingered and mingled with His blood; both would have a strong aroma. He hung there for shoeless babes; for tough toes that ran too hard, too soon; for mothers clutching tiny shoes, staring vacantly at empty shelves. Somehow, although I know not how, He who is timeless – can heal all three.