A couple weeks after college graduation, some friends and I spent five days backpacking in and around the Grand Canyon. I was a brand new Christian and couldn’t get enough of this new perspective on nature. Around every corner we’d pause to shout out “Yes, Lord!”
After two nights camping in the snow on the rim waiting for a permit, we finally got the green light. If you’ve ever descended the South Kaibab Trail, you know what a steep drop you have to navigate. You plunge nearly 5,000 vertical feet in just 7 miles to the bottom at the Bright Angel Trail along the Colorado River. It has to be one of the most brutal entries on the knees and quads.
I was mentally so ready for this hike: young and fit, recent college grad heading to grad school in the Idaho mountains, new believer in the company of good friends. But what I wasn’t prepared for was the toll my feet were going to take. I was an avid hiker so I assumed I knew what I was in for. But while my $30 Hi-Tecs might have been fine for the relatively flat hikes I was used to (this was the mid-90s when $30 got you a decent pair of boots – you cant even get a good pair of sock for $30 now!), they were no match for the Grand Canyon.
By the time we reached the bottom, my toes had been jammed so deep into the toes of my boots that they were blistered and the nails threatened to come off with each additional step. I was in rough shape, and we had three more days of backpacking to do, not to mention the climb out. As I soaked my angry feet in the cold snowmelt of a tributary, I began shopping in my mind for my next pair of boots.
My feet and I survived that trip, and I learned a valuable lesson: footwear matters.
I am particularly struck by the fact that the apostle Paul includes specific footwear for our spiritual armor in Ephesians 6: “…with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. ”
Have you ever shown up for an activity with the wrong shoes, or no shoes at all? You would barely be able to move, and your lack of appropriate footwear would hinder you from going where you need to go when you need to go there. I’ve tried fly fishing in my sneakers and ended up taking a swim as my feet slid off the slippery rocks. But with my wading boots on, which have heavy duty rubber soles with hard knobs for gripping the slimy stream bed, I can walk in a river current and position myself in just the right spot to make the cast.
Now imagine entering the battlefield with no shoes. Ouch! Paul tells us that entering the daily spiritual battle without a clear understanding of the good news that Jesus brought is like entering the battlefield without any footwear. It’s in our best interest, then, to make sure we really understand the gospel message. What exactly is the good news? Is it that Jesus loves me? Is it that if I’m good I can go to heaven and avoid hell? Is it that if I do enough good deeds or if I’m a good person, God will love and accept me? We’d better figure it out if we’re going to wear it!
Questions for thought
How many pairs of shoes do you own and what do you use each of them for? Do you really need them all? (OK, let the angry comments start coming. Sorry I asked that.)
If you had to trim down your shoe collection to just two pairs, which ones would they be and why? One pair?
What does it mean that God has provided us with spiritual footwear? How would our daily lives be different if we put those on every morning?
How would you describe the gospel message?
Lord, teach us the value of the gospel and help us to understand what it means to put it on our feet every day. Teach us to be content with what you have already provided for us, and show us the greater value of your spiritual provisions. In your name, amen.