I was fifteen when Poppy B died. Miles away from the Alabama hospital where he went to be with Jesus. And upon the death of my grandfather, down in the corner of his closet, we found two pairs of identical gray New Balance tennis shoes. They were the suede leather kind, a white ‘N’ sewn into the side with a slight reflective quality to them.
White laces. White soles. The shoes he put on each day after my grandmother had helped him shower and dress.
One of the pairs was slightly worn around the front toe. There were marks along the edges of the darkened soles from the motion of his feet jerking on the limestone floor, the Parkinson’s robbing him of swift and controlled motion.
The second pair, unlike the first, had never been worn.
The suede leather was smoother. The soles, white, like the sheets Nana bleached and starched for the spare bedroom. The laces still tucked into the shoe and tied together.
We found them sitting in a cardboard New Balance box on the closet floor.
“For when his other pair wore out,” Nana said, my mother and I questioning.
The memory and picture of the closet floor has lingered over the years, wondering why anyone would need to keep a pair of shoes “just in case,” until earlier this summer when I found myself trying on a pair of sandals at a local department store. Discovering both their comfort and versatility, I exclaimed, “I wish I could buy more than one pair of these so that when these wear out, I have another pair.”
I froze, letting a sort of gut wrenching realization wash over me. I had a brand new pair of shoes that I had yet to even purchase and there I was wanting more so that I would never run out.
The ever wandering Israelite wanting to go back to Egypt and questioning the pillar of fire leading me in the dark. Had I also turned into the Israelite woman on the floor of the desert, dust entering my nostrils as I grappled for tomorrow’s manna?
I’ve read the story of God’s people in the wilderness too many times to count and something about the story always pierces my heart. Perhaps because I see their doubting and wandering hearts in my own. Moments of faithfulness and trust. Moments of gratitude. And a dozen more moments of doubt about God’s faithfulness to provide.
The honest truth is that most of us want to make sure we have enough for tomorrow. Whether that manifests itself in our bank accounts or pantries or closets, it’s an ingrained desire to make sure that when tomorrow comes, we have not only what we need but also what we want. Call it a survival instinct or call it sin or call it whatever else you like. It’s there, hovering in the back parts of my mind and crowding the places of my heart.
I don’t often worry about storing up actual food for tomorrow, but I find myself thinking about frivolous things like wearing out my favorite pair of jeans or ruining my most comfortable pair of boots. I hold on to things in my closet “just in case” I ever have a job where I have to dress up again. I see a little black dress on sale at my favorite store, and I want to buy it “just in case” I ever need to go to a formal dinner party. I hoard my beloved books like I’ll never be able to buy them again. Like libraries or bookstores don’t exist. And sometimes even worse, I grapple for intimacy in relationships for fear that perhaps the next day might bring something to take it away.
I store up for my tomorrow instead of trusting it all to Him today.
On the surface, perhaps these daily choices don’t seem too extravagant or wrong. After all, we’ve been told to live a balanced life. We’ve been told that it’s okay to have belongings and clothes and things that we love. It’s okay to have friendships and relationships.
And it is.
But at the root, my knee jerk reaction to grapple for more comes from a fear and uncertainty that my big and beautiful and faithful God is not going to take care of me. So, obviously I have to take care of myself, right?
And digging even deeper, perhaps it is rooted in the fear that He will provide me with my needs but not necessarily my wants. More times than not, a great chasm exists between the two.
And I wonder at the poisonous root of my ache for “more” and if it isn’t infecting other areas of my life. Namely, my desire to live generously.
If my thoughts are constantly circling around what I’ll do “when I run out,” how could I possibly believe that I have enough to give away?
The heat from the fire place reaches my cold toes as I type and the light coming in the window seems extra bright today as it reflects off the white dusting of snow on the ground. It’s the start of a new year and hopefully the continued growth and challenge of a not always generous heart. A new year filled with lots of new adventures.
But the same timeless promises of God exist. That He is faithful. That He is provider. And that He is good.