Years ago, a man came up to me, after hearing me speak to a group of people, and said “Have you ever heard of the saying ‘I cried because I didn’t have shoes, until I met someone who didn’t have feet’? You are my person without feet.” I stood there, for a moment, trying to process this simple yet profound saying that had just been made by a brokenhearted Dad, whose son had died. As my eyes met his I realized he was saying, in a most beautiful way, that I had, for that moment in time, given him some level of perspective that had made a difference for him on his journey through suffering.
That night, that statement gave me an outlook on life that has forever changed me.
“You Are My Person Without Feet”
After that encounter, I researched the saying and found it is most often attributed to Saadi of Shirazi, a Persian Poet living some 750 years ago. I tried to put myself in the mind of that ancient poet. I tried to step back in time to his culture, to his world, and out of mine. Perhaps, in the summer months, he had to walk for miles and miles upon blistering hot sand, at times feeling pain radiate up his leg as he stepped on sharp stones. Then again, he may have also been acquainted with the numbness in his feet, as he walked in the wet mud, in temperatures close to freezing, all along thinking “If I only had shoes.” When the physical suffering, due to the absence of shoes, overwhelmed him, he may have struggled with his situation in life so much it began to impact him emotionally, mentally and perhaps even spiritually.
As I pictured this man, without shoes, walking these ancient streets and hillsides I noticed how he would focus on the ground before him to avoid stones, mud, and broken pottery strewn through the ancient streets. As he walked through the crowded marketplace, perhaps his struggles were magnified as he saw all the feet protected by sturdy sandals. He noticed that some were beautifully ornate while others quite simple. But, regardless of the style of footwear, those people had it so much better than he did. This didn’t help him, in his struggles, in not having shoes for himself. He started to feel sorry for himself, he questioned why his lot in life was such that he lacked something as basic as shoes.
As he walked further down the dusty street, his head hanging low and his eyes still looking downward to avoid objects that could cause him pain, his eyes caught sight of something that made him come to an abrupt stop. As he looked at his worn feet, that hurt so much he saw, out of the corner of his eyes, another man without shoes, yet this man also had no feet.
It is when and where we ‘lack feet’ that we can provide others with a new perspective of their own circumstances.
His eyes welled up with tears as he watched this man struggle to move on these dusty roads that he had just travelled over so quickly. He watched the man beg for food, as he was unable to provide for himself. This man without shoes began to cry, as he was overcome with emotions. He knew that someday he may have the opportunity to obtain shoes, but this man would forever struggle without having feet.
That man, crawling next to him, had given him the gift of perspective.
In our own struggles in life, there are those times we find ourselves ‘without shoes’, yet at other times we may be faced with not ‘having feet’. It is when and where we ‘lack feet’ that we can provide others with a new perspective of their own circumstances. There is also power to be found in us serving people without ‘feet’, to begin to heal those aspects of our lives that are missing ‘shoes’.
Perspective is powerful. Whether it is circumstantial perspective, situational perspective or the most powerful of all, that of eternal perspective. Our perspective is something we have control over, even when life is out of control.
Charlotte Christian Voice will be starting a series, next week, on perspective in difficult times. A series full of personal stories and biblical insights to help us when we find ourselves ‘without shoes’ and perhaps, from time to time, ‘without feet’.