Can I confess something? I’m still puzzled about the events that have taken place in my life since I married Michael several years ago. The strange abnormalities that sent me to numerous doctors with one proclaiming they had only seen a case like mine once in their twenty-five years of practice. “Rare” is what he called me.
Amidst the sea of amazing support, there have also been times where we’ve been handed advice that wasn’t relevant. Dropped as friends because we would not take said advice that would supposedly “make everything better.”
Never had I ever yearned for the cliche,’ “to walk a mile in another’s shoes” to be placed out of retirement. And never had I had so many moments of self-reflection, knowing that I had most likely done the same to others in seasons past.
I wanted this “walking a mile in another’s shoes” to become second nature for everyone, including myself.
Yet, there was one pair of shoes I turned to knowing they had seen our own.
His feet were caked with dust, adhered by sweat, blistered from the miles of sandal chafing skin. I longed for this incarnate Christ like never before. How did I pass over His humanity for so much of my life? Betrayed by family, cursed by peers, He endured the pain of the cross, but also the daily pain of living in a frail human vessel. I pine for the divine because there are simply days where I want to check out of this life.
When I worked at an Assisted Living Facility years ago, I was sent for sensitivity training to better understand the Alzheimer’s residents I worked with. It had become the norm for workers and family of the elderly to set a high level of expectation that the elderly person simply could not meet.
The solution from this training center seemed strange at first- we were to place goggles over our eyes to impair our vision, then the facility’s workers would put us into a dark room with sensory stimuli that was meant to mimic the sensory issues of the elderly. And icing on top of the cake: they would give us instructions in advance of everything we were meant to complete from folding laundry to writing a letter. It sounds easy enough, right? That’s what we all thought. We walked into the training room, so confident we would be able to ace the challenge, only to be left with the embarrassing conclusion that we only halfway completed the instructions- if that.
We were asked to give our thoughts by one of the facility workers after the challenge was complete.
I told the worker it was an eye-opening experience, but I knew it was only a simulation. It could only be a very small taste of what the residents faced. But at the very least, I had a taste and so did others.
I am so thankful that when Jesus came to earth “He faced all the same testing we do, yet he did not sin.” Hebrews 4:15 (NLT) This pain he experienced wasn’t simply a mock simulation, but the authentic test of being human while still retaining His divinity. He cried the tears of a man in mourning, he felt the spike in His wrist of a man who was acquainted with pain, and He was even given unhelpful advice about what His mission “should be.”
I long to give the perfect advice of Emmanuel, the God who walked the shoes of the suffering. Yet I know I will always be limited. The best I can manage is a simulation, but at least I’m trying to fire the old self who gave advice without placing myself in another’s shoes.
And friend, my wish for that tired cliche has already resurrected. He is One who has walked in our shoes and I pray that we are all able to seek the One who “comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others.” 2 Cor. 1:4 (NLT)
I hope this is a message we can cling to this Christmas season. God went through the same suffering you did to fulfill the law you could not on your own, to bring the gift of salvation. But also a key reason we omit is so He could sympathize with us in our weaknesses.
So that you know you’re not alone in your suffering.