The Prayer Boots

img_7787With a March snowstorm in the forecast and my annual trip to the Cape fast approaching, I had was heartbroken when my favorite boots gave out. The heel of the sole broke completely free from the rest of the boot and the kids talked me out of attempting to use super glue to fix it. I have a reputation for ending up hopelessly glued to stuff. So instead, I drove two sales ladies at the shoe store completely bonkers trying to find me a pair as close to what I had as possible. I came home with my new boots and, seeing the laces in the old ones were still good, I pulled the old laces out and set them aside. I took the old ones outside, but when it came time to put them in the garbage can, I started to cry. Yes, cry. Over a worn out pair of boots. Not a sniffle and a stray tear. Oh no. we’re talking a sit-down-on-the-steps, holding-on-to-the-boots, tears-rolling-down-the-face kind of a cry.

This is stupid. I told myself. Who in their right mind cries over a broken down pair of boots?! But the reaction was so visceral, I had to ask myself why they mattered so much to me. Honestly, I’m forty-some years old. It’s not like I’ve never thrown out a pair of boots before.

But these boots were different. These had a history. Over eleven years, I walked hundreds of miles of empty beaches with God as my companion. As beautiful as that may sound, I wasn’t always the most pleasant of company on those walks. And there were plenty of times when I resented God’s very presence in what had become the only safe space I had left. My life was in such a miserable state, all I wanted was to be left alone. It was not uncommon for me to walk four miles and spend the entire four miles yelling at God to either help me or get out of my way. Funny thing is, over time, something gradually shifted and those walks with God on the beach became less confrontational. Little by little, I stopped yelling. I stopped demanding. I stopped begging. I accepted God’s company and I found that even on those days when I thought I really, really wanted to be alone, what I actually wanted was to be alone with God because God was the only who understood what was brewing inside of me.

Over the last eleven years, I didn’t learn to trust God by sitting in church on Sunday. I didn’t learn to surrender all the stuff that was killing me inside by reading a prayer book full of prayers I was supposed to have memorized and couldn’t. There were days when I was just so hopelessly tangled up inside, the only way to untangle the mess was to take a walk down the beach and let God do the untangling. And the only way that works is to let go and let God do God’s thing and accept that maybe, just maybe, the Creator has a clue about how this particular creation ticks.

All those miles, all that sand and salt water, all the tears and pain and hell I’d walked through was soaked into a clunky, ugly, worn out pair of old leather boots. God transformed all that into a life I never dared to hope for, a life touched by unfathomable grace. Sometimes a pair of boots is more than just a pair of boots. Sometimes a pair of boots become sacred objects. So maybe that worn out pair of boots isn’t going in the garbage can after all. Maybe they’ll be given a very quiet burial somewhere only God and I know about.

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Ahhhhh the first day of Daylight Savings Time. Nothing like a nice quiet Sunday morning to soak up an extra hour of sleep under the warm toasty electric blanket. So why am I standing on a beach at 6:10 a.m. when it’s just barely light, windy and maybe 30 degrees?! Because there was a solar eclipse at sunrise this morning and I really, really wanted to see it. So there I was in sandals no less because tying sneakers would take too long this morning.

I got to the beach a few minutes before the best viewing time. It was there. It was magnificent. It was breathtaking and brilliant and it was awesome. It’s just that, well… I couldn’t see it. There were clouds and even though they’d lifted from the horizon, they still blocked the sun from view. There was one bright slit of light that peeked through the clouds. I knew exactly where that eclipse was happening and yet even with knowing when and where to look, I missed it. It was beyond the sight of my limited vantage point.

So after spending twenty minutes chatting with a couple of friends who were crazy enough to join me for a beach-at-dawn freeze fest, I gave up. The eclipse had come and gone. I headed off for my usual breakfast haunt. From the warmth of my car I watched the sunlight blaze from behind the clouds, lighting them up in purples and golds and casting a pink reflection on the water.

It occurred to me that I should be writing. It was quiet. I was wide awake. I had a whole day ahead of me with little that required any immediate attention. But I made no move to pick up the pen and notebook next to me. I know darn good and well where the next chapter of my novel takes me. There’s a great deal of darkness in it, and although it’s a work of fiction, it’s still a darkness I’m all too familiar with already. I experience what I write as I write it. You have to understand that as I recap this morning for you, I’m in wool socks, jeans and a hoodie, shivering despite sitting in front of a heating vent and sipping a hot cup of tea. So to write this chapter will take me back into places I don’t want to revisit. But…

There’s always a ‘But’ … But I came out the other side of that dark place. The whole time God was there working, beyond the sight of my limited vantage point. He was magnificent. He was breathtaking and brilliant and awesome. It’s just that, well… I couldn’t see it. In fact, there were times I wasn’t even sure He was there at all. And now…

And now, I know He’s there and always was there. To step back into that space, especially in such a limited scope shouldn’t scare me anywhere near as much as it does. I’m afraid of losing my improved but still limited vantage point. But there may well be a new one on the other side of the pages. Only one way to find out, I guess.