“14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace.” Ephesians 6:14-15 (ESV)
Korea is a beautiful, mountainous peninsula. When I lived in South Korea, my coworkers and I took some hiking trips up a few of those mountains. One year I was caught. I was waiting for the bus with Beth and she noticed my shoes. They were really comfortable and had decent grip on the bottom, she didn’t care. Why? They were slip-ons! I assured her they would be fine. She assured me that I would not be wearing them. I promised that I had worn them the year before and made it. Then Larry, our trip leader, was brought into the conversation. He was not going to let me get away with wearing slip-ons.
Larry let me know that we would stop on the way and buy hiking shoes. I had some money in my pocket, but it was not enough for a pair of shoes. After the train ride, we headed to a mountain. There were many expensive shops. We did not stop at any of them. I couldn’t imagine that there would be shops closer to the foot of the mountains, but Larry was confident, having been there before.
A small shop had shoes outside and Larry started to inquire if they had shoes my size. A salmon color pair was selected, he made sure they fit me, and he purchased them for me.
We climbed places where slip-ons would have slipped off: holding on to ropes, cables, rocks. The views were breathtaking.
After some time, likely after lunch, Larry invited us to continue up the mountain with him or to go back with another leader. Having just received new shoes for the event, I decided to continue with him. The rest of the team went back.
Soon he pointed out our goal, one of the many peaks. There were many men and women climbing it. I was afraid. I am afraid of heights. When we reached a particularly steep ridge, Larry asked if I would like to go ahead of him or behind him. I chose to follow, that way he could tell me where to put my hands and feet (and I wouldn’t have to look down).
As we ascended, I listened. Wherever he told me to hold on, I did. Where he told me to put my foot, I did. I was afraid, but I was so grateful to be with him and following him directly. If someone else had been between us, I might have missed his directions! He knew the way. He had been up this mountain before.
There were moments of fear that tried to lock in, but the reality was there were people ahead of us and people behind us. The ascent had been taken by many. Stakes were in some places that were particularly difficult, another clue that I was not alone here; others had been here before. The shoes on my feet were provided for me, for this particular task.
Walking with hiking shoes was great! I never felt like I would slip, the toes had steel in them, my laces locked into place. I was never alone. As I looked around from the peak, I am sure I snapped a picture, but no photograph can capture the lesson I had learned wearing hiking shoes that day.
Thank you for providing everything I need to walk with you and to stand firm. I could not do this without you. Thank you for going ahead of me, being with me. In Jesus' Name, amen.
How have you and how will you help others prepare for what God has called them to?
What are you leaving behind for people to cling to on their journey?