These are the shoes belonging to the Sr. High camp counselors. At 7:00 am these weary volunteers stagger into Choco’s house with a ragged collection of snuggly blankets and half-full coffee mugs. They kick off their shoes at the door and pile onto the couch. As they meet and pray and study the schedule for the day, their feet are bare. Think about that for a moment.
We humans are careful to cover ourselves. We cover our bodies with clothing. We cover our feet in shoes. We cover our hearts from the dangers around us and our souls from bruising and pain. Those scattered shoes remind me of something amazing that can happen. Something that occurred this week at camp. Yes, we have been covering ourselves since the beginning of time, since Adam and Eve clutched leaves to themselves in the garden to cover their shame. But once in a while, when one feels heard and safe and loved, a person will stand tall and honest and bare.
No, I am not advocating that we rush out and start a nudist colony. I am observing the spiritual journey of camper after camper, counselor after counselor, and speaker after speaker. Watching the way that feeble seedlings of faith stretch and grow. I am watching baby Christians become tall and strong, mighty young trees that can weather the storm. This process chokes out and withers away unless the soul is bared.
We cover ourselves in more than clothes. Just as a well-cut suit, fashionable gown, or favorite pair of sweatpants can hide our flaws and accentuate our strong points, sometimes the Christianity we wear is not about pleasing God but about creating an image for those around us. Who really wants to admit that if they stopped smiling, they fear all their friends will abandon them? Who wishes to reveal their constant doubt, addiction, or a deep and roiling hate. If the painted picture of faith were pulled back, would God still have died, for the mess that we are inside, for the real us, the real me?
Yet, for a fledgling faith to grow, one has to actually meet God. Not the image of what they wish they were kneeling in thoughtful prayer. No, the real person, with all their doubts and failings and pain. Bare and broken we must come and kneel before our maker. How can our Creator heal His child if we hide the wound and refuse to bring the broken parts of us to Him?
There is no doubt that the Pharisees and Sadducees needed redemption and healing and yet this is what Jesus told them when they stood before Him in all their perfect religiosity and outward superiority.
Mark 2:17—“On hearing this, Jesus said to them, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Matthew 21:31—“…’Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you.”
Why on earth would He say such things to this group of powerful men? Because it wasn’t really them coming before God. They only condescended to bring the perfect image that they had constructed. No, the real man lay beneath the facade and the Pharisees and Sadducees were not willing to expose themselves, even to accept God’s healing.
As I look back over the week, I see an incredible group of teens who have had the courage to stand before God honest and bare.
I sat in on the campfire on Friday night and it was clear that God was dealing with real kids willing to be who and what they actually were. They knew that when we bring Him all the terrible reality of our situation, God inevitably steps forward and makes beauty of our ashes and dust.
I saw the girls’ cabins bonded together through trouble and trial. I saw the steady love of counselors pouring themselves out for their kids. Working late into the night at thankless jobs and arising early in the morning to pray for each teen in their cabin. I saw staff determined to make sure that a counselor who had to leave early could be baptized before she left. Then the unexpected laughter they shared as the camp dog was accidentally baptized along with her is such a picture of the craziness and beauty of this thing we call camp.
We had two boys who were both over six feet tall crash at full speed into each other, both sustained injury. Following the nurse’s orders to stay calm and quiet for the week was torture for these active young men. But when they stood at the campfire, they spoke of how God had brought them a brother and friend in each other, one they would never have found otherwise as they are so different from each other. They spoke of drawing nearer to a strong God in their time of physical weakness. Even this, something we wish we had been able to prevent, God was able to redeem.
So the next time you slip off your shoes and bare your feet, I want you to remember something that I saw these teens live out this week. To meet God, you must show him you, the real you, the one that you hide.
He is eager to heal you, if only you can let go of your feeble coverings and come to Him as what you actually are. Bare, but ready to be healed.