In my family, I was the sole member of an infamous club. The “Two-Shoe” Club. Apparently the socially acceptable practice is to wear two matching shoes in public. I broke this societal norm, by wearing two different (but similar) shoes. Twice. Down through the years, being the only member of this club brought much derision and ridicule from my usually loving family. Most often my dear, not-always-so-sweet wife, Karla, began the conversation like this, “Do you remember, boys, when dad…” Hilarious laughter followed.
But glory, hallelujah, there is a new member of the club. Please welcome, Karla Prince, to the Two-Shoe Club. Last week, we were at an event where I was speaking, Karla looked down and discovered that she was wearing one black shoe with a big silver buckle on top and on the other foot was an ever-so-slightly-different-shaded black shoe with no buckle. She explained the faux pas by saying she was trying on both shoes to determined which went better with her outfit and then forgot to decide between the shoes. The result: the newest member of the Two-Shoe club.
My suspicion is that the Two-Shoe mockery will be a thing of the past in our family now that the instigator, Karla, has joined the club. Please let the record show: my two-shoe wearing experiences happened on Sunday mornings, when I was putting on my shoes early in the morning, in the dark, as to not awaken a certain sleeping beauty; her two-shoe episode happened in the light of day. “Aha,” I want to say, “looks like the shoe (literally) is on the other foot.”
It’s not in the Bible (it might be a Native American proverb) but we’ve all heard the saying: Don’t judge a person until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes. It’s a call for empathy. The great theologian Steve Martin once said, “Before you criticize a man, walk a mile in his shoes. That way, when you do criticize him, you’ll be a mile away and have his shoes.” I don’t think that’s the point.
The author of Hebrews tells of Jesus and wrote: For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. (Hebrews 4:15). In other words, Jesus knows what it’s like to walk in your shoes. Jesus empathizes with the weak, tired and broken. We should too.
Empathy is a lost emotion these days. People would much rather lash out than have empathy. But as we strive to be Christ-like, we would do well to empathize with the plight of others. Paul wrote “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” (Romans 12:15). In other words, we need to walk in one another’s shoes, whether they match or not.