I love walking barefoot. I love taking off my shoes and feeling the ground that I walk on, feeling the dirt, the rocks, the cement, the asphalt, the grass, everything. My feet seem to breathe and be set free from their enclosed prison when I whip my shoes off and continue on with no sole between the ground and I.
During finals week I ended up walking all over campus finding new places to study so that I didn’t get extremely bored with my head in the books. As I walked to new places, both far and near to my dorm I often threw my shoes off, put them in my bag, and took my time to get wherever I was going.
This particular day I was walking to the Veterinary Library (it’s like the cone of silence in that place, but one of my good friends loves to study there so that’s where I went), way down on the southern part of our campus. I was walking along a particularly un-kept sidewalk with large patches of rocks and broken cement. I was, of course, walking barefoot and gingerly finding the path of least pain across these sections when it hit me, “my obsession for walking barefoot is a perfect example of living with an open heart.”
Our hearts are tender things; they are susceptible to pain at a higher level and are easily broken when left out to the public. We build walls up for our hearts; we put them in cages of gold so that our community thinks that they’re whole. We cater to images set for us and we convince ourselves that we are who we say we are. In other words, we put shoes on our hearts as we walk through life.
People tell me I’m crazy for not wearing shoes, they tsk-tsk me and warn me of “tape worms” or other parasites that I can catch. Now I know that walking barefoot isn’t risk free and actually heightens the chances of getting hurt. There’s glass that I can step on, there are thorns waiting to embed their selves in the bottom of my flesh; but I am not ignorant of the danger I have in barefoot walking, I simply choose to risk it, because I think that feeling what I walk on and the freedom of being shoeless is worth the risk.
People in this world will call you crazy for living with a shoeless heart, but choosing to do so is not about living in ignorance of the risk that comes with living vulnerably. It’s about seeing the risk and trusting that God will take care of you; seeing that the risk is worth the result: freedom. As we live with hearts that are bare and as we feel the world that we walk in, we will see more and more of who God is and how He loves those around us, how He love us. We will feel the pain of others, the pain that we never dealt with and the pain of the Lord as He sees His Children choosing the wrong path. We will feel the joy that the Lord pours out, we will feel the hope that He gives every morning. We will feel the awe that He puts in our lives as we live through the mundane. We will feel as Christ felt, wept as He wept, and rejoice as He rejoiced. That’s what comes as we take the shoes off and we live feeling.
So today, this moment, and every moment to come, I ask you, Will you choose to embrace the risk? Will you choose to take off the shoes of your heart and feel? Will you experience the rocky cement and the jagged glass for the sake of feeling the cool grass, the soft dirt and the surface that you live through? It's not a one-time choice, it's about choosing every day to be intentional, to be God-glorifying, to be who God meant us to be. It's about recognizing that our hearts are not our own, our pain is not ours alone. It's about recognizing that our lives are not the whole thing, but simply a piece of the Big Puzzle the Creator is putting together. So tie your shoes together and throw them on the telephone line, put them over your shoulder, dangle them in your hand as you walk on, barefoot and feeling.