For no apparent, earthly reason, I am thinking this morning about shoes. A whole huge pile of them. Mostly used up, well-worn, dirty old shoes. Now I am not unfamiliar with shoes. I have long lived with some shoe-hogs. Or perhaps I should say, shoe collectors. Some of those size 15s that threaten to clutter up our closet are pretty overwhelming at times. And my own collection of Crocs (my spring and fall slippers, though I rarely wear them out of the house) and Keens take up plenty of space themselves. Not to mention the Fat Babies I 'borrowed' from the daughters who left them when they moved away. But really, it's those daughters who have the shoe collections. The HUGE shoe collections. Or perhaps I should say, the one MASSIVE shoe collection, now that they're living together in Seattle and sharing a room again (coming full circle to the days when they had no choice). They have sneakers, boots, stillettos, flats and various things between. Name a brand (within a middle-class budget) and they can pull out a shoe with that label. I don't actually know how many pairs they currently have, but it's well over 100 between them. And they'll likely be more embarrassed that I'm telling you this than just about anything else I've ever told you about their lives. But as E would say, "That's a first world problem."
So the pile of shoes I'm thinking about could well be their pile. Anyway, it's a heaping pile. Think of it as all the shoes my daughters might be sending to Good Will. All the shoes they should, anyway. Think of all the shoes you no longer wear but have at the back of your closet because you bought them one time for that one occasion but that occasion passed and another has never arisen, so there they sit. Or perhaps they're shoes like Beve's Friday shoes. These are a pair of sneakers--I think they're Nikes, but I'm not sure--made of medium blue patent leather, with a white toe guard and sole. For many years, Beve wore them to school on Fridays, when he'd wear jeans and a shirt with school ensigna on it, and often commented that it was like he was invisible the rest of the week. But put those shoes on, and students stopped him in the halls right and left, "I love your shoes," they'd say. Or they'd just look at his size 15s and smile. Yep, those Friday shoes got more students in his door than just about anything else he could have done.
But those shoes have bitten the dust now. They're beyond worn out; they're just plain dead to rights. Beve really should throw them away. But he can't bring himself to do it. So they sit in his closet. He keeps looking for new "Friday shoes" to take their place, but hasn't found any with quite the pizzaz. The old has faded away...he's still waiting for the new to come.
All these shoes remind me, I guess, of what Paul is speaking of at the end of 1 Corinthians 13. During this age when we are on this earth, we are God's shoes. We are His hands and feet and mouth. He calls us to do His Kingdom work for the span of our lives--as long as our earthly shoes fit, so to speak. And then, those shoes wear out. And when our work is done, when the great collective earthly work of the Kingdom is done, all our shoes will be piled in a heap. Prophecies will fade away. Tongues will cease. Indeed, ALL the gifts He lavished upon us will be cast off shoes...because we'll be walking in the throne room of the King Himself. We'll be face to face then. We won't have to peer through a foggy mirror at Him when we worship, because He'll be right there. RIGHT THERE.
There will be no need for shoes then. Not our old, well-used ones, our Friday ones, or even our Sunday best. In that great day--in those great forever days!--we'll take our earthly shoes off once and for all. The ultimate holy moment.
But what will last? Actually, what will come to completion is our faith, which is "the assurance of things hoped for, and the conviction of things [yet]unseen" (Hebrews 11: 1), our hope-- Jesus Christ Himself is our hope, of course--and love. And the greatest of these? Obviously, certainly, eternally--the crossed-shaped, resurrection completed, salvation-accomplishing greatest of these is LOVE.