I will never forget the first time I saw her shoes. It was a cold wintry day in November and there I sat speechless, patting her hand while wrapping my arm around her shoulder. I didn’t know what to do or say. I occasionally muttered the words, “I’m sorry” but each time I said it, I felt like they were just words that hung in the air. She had struggled with infertility for years and was just told the precious baby she had come to love more than anyone or anything no longer had a heartbeat. She had only known about this miracle growing inside of her for a few short weeks but she was in love. She was already planning maternity pictures, birth announcements and dreaming of her first Mother’s Day.
She had a million dreams that turned into a million losses in a matter of seconds.
I will never forget the feelings I had and the thoughts that ran through my mind as I walked away from her that day. A part of me wanted to do or say more in order to ease her pain, but I didn’t know how because at the time, I hadn’t experienced my infertility struggles or early miscarriage. I hadn’t walked a mile in her shoes; I hadn’t experienced the pain from the blisters on her feet, and as a result, I went weeks trying to encourage her out of her grief and wondered why she couldn’t just pick herself up by her bootstraps. I remember thinking and almost even saying common phrases that I had often heard, but now make me cringe. Phrases such as, “Let’s be thankful this happened early before you were too attached” or “At least we know you can get pregnant.” I am forever thankful those words never come out of my mouth.
It’s been three years since I saw her shoes and in that time, I have not only walked a mile in them, but they now cover my own feet. On that day she told me they hurt. And she was right, they do. She told me how uncomfortable they made her feel. She wasn’t exaggerating. She talked about her blisters and how just when she thinks they are healed, an old one will open up or a new one will form. And once again, she was right. There are days I can walk for miles without feeling any pain, but then sometimes, just when I think my feet are getting used to these shoes, the pain starts to resurface and the blisters once again start to form.
But no matter how painful they are, how many blisters they give me, or how uncomfortable they make me feel, I never want to take them off. Because without them, I realize I can’t recognize the depth of another person’s pain or loss. I can’t understand how doubts and fears can consume and cripple a person from the inside out. Without them, I can’t find the words to say, and I don’t know the hugs to give or the cards to send. There was once upon a time when I knew her shoes hurt, but I never knew how bad they hurt until I put them on too. And that’s why I never want to take them off.
My sweet friend, the one reading this now, maybe you are also wearing shoes that hurt from some of life’s disappointments. Shoes from a divorce or another broken relationship. Maybe shoes from the death of a loved one or even the loss of a dream. Whatever it was, please don’t despise them. I know they cause you pain, create blisters and make you uncomfortable, but I also know they can give you the ability to offer encouragement to the discouraged and hope to the hopeless.
Your shoes are unlike any other pair of shoes because they give you the special ability to walk along another person who is hurting, feeling their same blisters, acknowledging their same pain, and all the while giving them the strength they need to keep moving…keep going…keep traveling through life.
So friend, as much as you hate the shoes you are wearing and wish you could take them off, please embrace them. Please own them. Please walk proudly in them. Don’t try to hide them or the pain. And when you can’t seem to take another step in them, call upon the One who can–His name is Jesus. He will not only heal your blisters, but He promises to help carry your pain.
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