As I was walking through the airport the week before Thanksgiving, I started to laugh. I looked in Newark and O’Hare to find a place where they would polish my shoes. It seems that they had some sort of vacation, because I arrived at my speaking engagement with shoes that cried out for some attention.
I laughed because I have changed drastically in regard to my shoes. It started in college when I became infatuated with polished shoes. I would polish my shoes at least once a week. I had black, brown, and a couple of other colors of shoe polish. I had enough equipment for a shoe shining shop. My friends found out about it and they would bring their shoes and later on because I was so good, they would bring the shoes of some of their girlfriends. I remember in my junior year of college when I was an RA, this girl came over and brought two pairs of her shoes because she heard that I did such a nice job for my friends. I was annoyed by her behavior, but I polished her shoes, nevertheless.
Needless to say, the abundance of opportunities to keep my shoes clean and the shoes of some of my friends made me quit this obsession that I had with clean shoes. By the time of my seminary days, a friend of mine who was from a military background told me that her grandmother would never accept me because my shoes were not properly cleaned. Clean shoes for some people are an indication of meticulous living and good behavior.
Within the last fifteen years, I could always pick up the military types in my classroom. Most of them arrive early, are never late, are very polite, and sit in the front row. They also shined their shoes so well that I can see my face in them. I do not need a mirror – I just need a pair of excellently shined shoes in front of me.
Now as you have guessed, I make sure that I have my shoes polished whenever I fly. Therefore, I arrived in Chicago with my shoes as I left home. They were scuffed and scratched and needed to be polished. To my surprise, the whole event was live streamed, and I was constantly under the glaring TV lights. And then I remembered my shoes. A couple of times, I tried to hide them doing all sorts of contortionist acts. After a while, I gave up because my legs got too tired to hide my shoes under the chair.
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To my surprise, a number of people shared with me how blessed they were by my sermon. Thus far, those that saw my scuffed and scratched shoes did not make a comment. Maybe Solomon was right when he told us in Ecclesiastes that all of us have certain vanities, and even preachers travel with some. On the other hand, I may get some shoe polish and start polishing my shoes again.