Pairs of shoes
A few years ago I had to go to a training day. I say "had", because it was not my choice to have to go on it. Has anyone ever chosen to go on a training day in the history of the world!?
Anyway, they did this exercise where they gave us a pile of shoes. They asked us to assume the mind-set of the person whose shoes we thought they were. This is definitely sounding like a training day now! But bear with me. They asked us to assume that every pair of shoes was worn by someone who had been involved with the criminal justice system (the courts, the police, probation or prisons.) The rest was up to us.
Placing ourselves in someone else's shoes is actually quite a powerful thing to do. We can never know what they are going through fully, but we might get a glimpse of why they are who they are. Real understanding comes from opening our lives to each other and being honest. Some people do this wonderfully in our church family.
Who do you think these shoes belong to in the picture...if they belonged to someone who came through the doors of church.
- What do you think they have been through?
- What hurts might they have experienced?
- What disappointments?
- Why might they not hear what we say about Jesus clearly? Is something drowning out the sound?
- What might they need from Jesus?
It is just an exercise, but it might get us thinking.
Until we walk around in someone's shoes- see and feel a little what they do- we may just conclude they are cranky, or a pain.
This isn't to say God doesn't call people to change some habits; he does. But they stand a better chance if we understand them better!
Paul writes: 'Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.' Galatians 6:2-3
It is one of the reasons why church at it's best is beautiful. Because Jesus calls us to empathise with one another. To share each others lives and to see a bit more clearly. To speak the words of Jesus into the hurts with real understanding. Next time you are sat next to someone different, or you end up in a home group with someone different, or at a social event. Don't groan! Actually seek out the most different person to you.
Why not do the exercise that was the last thing I wanted to do those years ago.