Back in the days of our missionary service in St. Vincent in the Grenadines some eight years ago, I remember with great detail an afternoon in which I was walking around the edge of a dusty mountain road to teach an afternoon catechism class at the island’s primary school. The sun was high and bright and hot. The road was speckled with the peaks of buried rocks and dust kicked up as I walked precariously around the ledge of a sharp descent in the mountain. My feet were clad in brown leather sandals that I had purchased from an artisan on the island. They were darkened by the many days they had spent in the sun and they were cover in a layer of island dust. I looked down at them as I walked for two reasons: I had to be particularly cautious of rock and weak edges on the part of the path were I was and if I tried to look straight ahead, the sun caused my eyes to well with tears and rendered me useless.
But somewhere in those moments on the edge of that dusty mountain road, something happened and I saw those sandaled feet in a new way. I was suddenly struck with a tangible and very intimate awareness that in this particular moment in time, I was exactly in the center in the will of God, being exactly who He created me to be, doing exactly what He wanted me to be doing. The sense was overwhelming and I remember it with vivid color, clarity, and joy.
I have had similar experiences very few times in my life: holding my husband’s hand during the praying of the Our Father at our wedding was one, the baptisms of my children each held a moment such as this. Each of these moments has come at a time in my life when I had opened my heart with total abandon to God and let Him have His way with me.
It’s been a long time since I’ve had one of those moments. It’s been a long time since I’ve said “yes” to God with the kind of abandon my young heart found easy to offer. Having buried one baby and lost two to miscarriage in the past two years has left me tied up inside. So accustomed have I become to weight of my burden, that I have been a bit afraid to even wonder what I feel like without it. A few years of loss, sorrow, intense uncertainty about our future, and I was suddenly feeling very old, frail in my ability serve God well, unsure I could take on any drastic change in my life, tired and worn out.
So when I began to feel God moving the direction of a renewed call to missionary service, I stiffened. Fear gripped me. I did not think I could do it, did not think I could abandon my heart to Him and accept this rapid, drastic change in my life. I had begged Him long and begged Him hard to make a change, but not this one. This was too much to ask. But the call pressed on my heart, slow and gentle, waiting for me to respond.
And each time I begged Him for a different way, each time I pleaded with Him to answer “why this?” and “why now?”, my heart returned to the warmth of that day and to the remembrance of my sandaled feet on that dusty road. The memory of the peace that abides on the center of His will assuaging the tension, easing the knotted aches of my heart. And soon, I began to release it all, to accept the goodness of a life lived in abandon to the will of God. Soon, my heart whispered its first tentative “yes”. And then, surer and surer it came. Different from the young “yes” that had no cost to count, this “yes” was intentional, born of hard spiritual effort. But, it was a “yes”, it was an abandonment to Him.
Just a little more than a week ago, I woke up the morning after arriving at a new mission post with my family – my husband and our five sons. The sun was shining brightly. I slipped my feet into a pair of pink flip flops as we headed out the door for the walk to church for a Holy Hour. My feet hit the dusty roads of this new place, learning to avoid its rocks and obstacles, and suddenly, this brand new, unfamiliar place led me to a very familiar spot. Sandaled feet on dusty roads. More than a memory. A reality. It is who I am in Him. Who I am meant to be. Where I am meant to be. Awash in the peace that surpasses all understanding, I walked and watched those feet.
It occurred to my in that moment that the key was not in the sandals or the roads or any other circumstance, but in the state of my heart. It is the feeling of freedom that comes with abandonment to His will. And while my call to walk the missionary journey, my sandaled feet on the dusty roads of far away places is very specific, could it not be that this same freedom could come from soapy hands in warm dish water, tired arms around nursing babes, legs tired from standing at one more sporting event, knees bent in adoration of a loving God, eyes peering on Christ present. In each hand every moment of every day, there is opportunity to give ourselves completely to Him and feel the freedom of being totally present in that moment, aware that we are in the center of His will. When we consciously abandon ourselves to God and we find ourselves being exactly who He wants us to be exactly where He wants to be, each moment is a little more vibrant, a little more memorable, sings with the joy of something special, something intensely and intimately real, and flows on waves of grace and peace.
Today, I will set my sandaled feet on dusty roads and lift my sun-kissed arms to air wet clothes under banana trees. I pray to know the sweet freedom of utter abandonment to God. I pray, you too, will find the moment and the place today to know who you are in Him, to loose your burdens, and know the deep joy of true freedom.