I was walking with my mother and my four siblings along the bank of the Kandy Lake on my way to the Assemblies of God Sunday School. I had not noticed the dark clouds. I was looking at my bright red shoes. My heart beat with pleasure as I walked along. These were my first genuinely new shoes. They were a gift for my fifth birthday. No one had ever worn them before.
Shining. Bright. Red. The color of the red hibiscus – which was called the “shoe flower” in Ceylon.
While I was concentrating on my new red shoes, it began to rain. My shoes got wet. By the time we arrived at the Sunday school, I was soaking wet – and my shoes were full of water. I had to take them off. The color had run. My feet were red. My shoes never shone again.
Shoes have often been a problem in my life. Many of my shoes had come as hand-me-downs in parcels, first from America, later also from Finland. My feet grew fast. Mother often had trouble finding enough money to buy proper shoes to fit uniform regulations at the Kandy Girls’ High School – which had classes from Kindergarten to University Entrance Level.
When I was 17, recently arrived in Finland, to my surprise a friend of my parents invited me to go shopping with her in Helsinki. She took me to a large shoe store and said,
“Now you can choose any pair of shoes that you like.”
“You mean I can choose a new pair of shoes for myself?”
“Yes. Just any pair you want.”
They were the first pair of shoes I could choose for myself, bought specially for me by a lady named Angel Laukila.
Some years later I was again in Helsinki, this time alone. I was looking for a pair of white shoes to match my white brocade wedding dress, sewn in India by a Danish volunteer. I found the perfect pair on sale, white satin wedding shoes – for just two Finnish marks.
My fiancee was to travel home from his missionary work in Thailand for our wedding. His mother paid for his flight. I had been working as a volunteer in India and had recently returned home from there via Thailand. We had exchanged engagement rings in Bangkok.
Again, several years later I had sore feet while walking along the Silom Road in Bangkok looking for a flat for a new missionary. My feet were sore because of the early stages of Rheumatoid Arthritis.
Through the years I could not find any shoes that relieved the pressure on the soles of my feet. I had tried dozens of pairs of shoes – trying to find something that might fit and wouldn’t hurt my already burning feet.
Finally, after moving to Finland after many years in Asia, I was granted specially made shoes with insoles adapted to my constantly changing arthritic feet.
The shoes could be a metaphor for my life. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesian church about wearing the right kind of shoes to face life’s spiritual battles. The Swedish Bible uses an adjective to describe those shoes: beredvilligheten. Prepared and willing – or volunteer shoes.
I have not always been ready and willing to use those shoes. Maybe I was afraid I might get hurt.