Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Treasures :: Flip-Flops with Holes Worn Through the Heels

Inspired by Leigh McLeroy's book Treasured: Knowing God by the Things He Keeps, I'm asking: What tangible pieces of my spiritual history would I place carefully in my own cigar box for safekeeping? What stories have shaped my journey with this ever-faithful, treasure-keeping God? Below is part seven of the "Treasures" series. 


VII. Flip-flops with holes worn through the heels

One of the main reasons I chose to attend Indiana Wesleyan University was because I hoped to join a ministry team. The teams who sang and traveled to camps each summer had been so instrumental in my own salvation, and I dreamed of having that kind of profound impact on other kids’ lives. So when I arrived on campus as a freshman, one of my first priorities was auditioning and interviewing for a team, praying fervently that God would grant my heart’s desire.

I wasn’t selected for the more prestigious/well-known team I’d been hoping for, but I did get to join a team. And while initially I wasn’t thrilled about singing all a cappella music instead of the cool Avalon and FFH tracks the other teams got to sing, I learned to love what we did (and I grew exponentially more as a musician).

Brother's Keeper 2000-2001
Singing with our team, Brother's Keeper, was a more intense time commitment than I could have imagined. During the school year, we were on the road every single weekend except for school breaks (fall, spring, Thanksgiving and Christmas). We’d sing at a church Sunday morning, sometimes having to drive several hours on Saturday afternoon and stay overnight in a host home. (I slept in more strangers' homes than I can begin to count--some experiences were phenomenal, others...strange.) Other times we had to wake up at the buttcrack of dawn on Sunday morning to drive to a church. Then we’d get back in our van and travel to a different church for a Sunday evening service. Each concert involved unloading and reloading the van, setting up and tearing down an entire sound system.

Brother's Keeper 2001-2002

In June, the university would send us on a ten-week tour of youth and family camps. I packed a summer’s worth of belongings in a giant Rubbermaid bin on wheels, and my team drove from Iowa to northern Michigan to New Brunswick and various places in between, serving as counselors, leading worship, singing our own music, whatever the camp directors wanted us to do.

A navy blue pair of $3 flip-flops hardly left my feet those summers, except at bedtime. They took me in and out of community showers, through recreation and fast-food runs and worship services and small group meetings. Those flimsy rubber sandals were, in a sense, shoes of the gospel of peace, and I wore them out. By the time I got back to campus in August, the heels had worn so thin that stepping on a sharp rock would cause me to yelp with pain. Soon an actual hole appeared, and they had to be thrown out.

The miles those flip-flops carried me were unforgettable. Along the way I learned to play the guitar and to beatbox; I cultivated some of my most significant relationships. I poured into junior high girls and soaked up teaching from phenomenal speakers. I leaned on my teammates when I was weak and at my worst; I laughed with them at 2AM Canadian border crossings. And again and again, I marveled at the faithfulness of God, at His profoundly generous answers to prayer, at His patient condescension to accomplish His work through flawed and messy me.

The highlight was when those flip-flops took me back to Lakeside, the beloved camp where God had first drawn me to himself four years earlier. On a humid July evening, as our team gave the traditional concert featured every year, I shared my testimony with kids who had been my fellow campers the summer before. I explained that I was living proof that a commitment made at camp could be real. It didn’t have to be a “camp fling” with God, experiencing a little taste of Him for a few days and resolving to "do better" at the Christian life, only to slide back into old ways after just a couple of weeks at home. God had transformed me permanently, I told them—and He wanted to capture their hearts, too.

I don’t know how many of those kids are walking with God today and how many have long since abandoned the fa├žade of faith that they pretended to carry through their teen years. But I do know there have been few experiences in my life as powerful as watching two of my teammates perform the skit (“The Pretender”) that pierced my own heart at age fifteen, then proclaiming my own story of God’s glorious grace and singing Third Day’s “Love Song” with my team. I stood in those flip-flops proudly, humbly, overwhelmed at His goodness to me and grateful to have beautiful feet bringing good news.

Treasures, previously:
A broken piece of cornerstone
A sharp pebble
A pastel index card
A Bible with a broken spine
A rainbow lanyard with a pewter cross pendant
Pages of prayers scrawled in a journal

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