Friday, April 9, 2010


I've just started reading Knowing God by J. I. Packer. One of his first points:

One can know a great deal about godliness without much knowledge of God…In this analytical and technological age there is no shortage of books on the church bookstalls, or sermons from the pulpits, on how to pray, how to witness, how to read our Bibles, how to tithe our money, how to be a young Christian, how to be an old Christian, how to be a happy Christian, how to get consecrated, how to lead men to Christ, how to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit (or, in some cases, how to avoid receiving it), how to speak with tongues (or, how to explain away Pentecostal manifestations), and generally how to go through all the various motions which the teachers in question associate with being a Christian believer…Whatever else may be said about this state of affairs, it certainly makes it possible to learn a great deal at second-hand about the practice of Christianity…Yet one can have all this and hardly know God at all.

Yesterday I participated in TOMS Shoes' One Day Without Shoes. At first I wasn't sure if I really wanted to commit to a full day of walking around campus barefoot, but I decided to suck it up and see how long I could last braving the constantly-under-construction streets of NC State.

In a lot of ways it was a very nice experience. I spent the day enjoying skin-to-earth contact, walking around on warm bricks and cement. I felt like I was a part of something purposeful, a movement for change, a push towards action. I was raising awareness for those who don't have shoes to protect their feet from injury and disease. I was proud of myself for doing something so "good."

It wasn't until about 4:00, after I had been trekking up and down Hillsborough Street and through the Court of North Carolina, that I really started to feel my feet. I could feel the edges of every brick as my bare heels struck the ground. I winced as I hopped through obstacle courses of gravel and broken asphalt, doing my best to dodge as many rocks as I could and still managing to step on quite a few in the process. My feet felt dirty and I could feel peoples' eyes on me as I walked to class. I could tell that many thought I was just some weird girl who was especially enthusiastic about the wonderful weather we've been having recently. During my 4:30 class all I could think about was how sore and cold my feet were, and how much I just wanted to go home and soak them in warm water.

It gave me a new understanding of "walking a mile in another man's shoes."

The experience also helped me understand what Packer was talking about—the difference between claiming godliness and knowing God. As a Christian, I am quite comfortable saying that I know God, but do I really? Do I know God? I'm not talking about knowing how he wants me to spend my time. Or having a firm grasp on my theology. Or knowing the things a "good" Christian is supposed to do and doing them. Or just going through the motions. I am talking about knowing God, knowing the creator of the universe and savior of my soul.

At the beginning of my day yesterday, it was so easy for me to rattle off the reason I was walking around Raleigh shoe-less—"I'm participating in TOMS Shoes' One Day Without Shoes to raise awareness about people in third world countries who don't have shoes." I had knowledge of the need, but it wasn't connected to anything. How could it be? I had only been walking around barefoot for a few hours. My feet were still soft and relatively clean. I hadn't felt even a fraction of what millions of children feel underneath their bare feet daily.

Only after I had spent a full day walking around barefoot did I even begin to realize the gravity of what I was raising awareness for. I had to allow myself to meditate on what it means to go without shoes. Of course, I am in no way claiming that I know what it's like to live my life shoeless, but I do believe that I know better now how it feels. I think the experience mirrors what our journey towards knowing God looks like. At first knowing God feels good, we see his "good" qualities; then we realize that to know God means to know all of God, and it doesn't always feel quite so good. Knowledge of God softens us, humbles us, and molds us into what He wants us to be.

With dirty feet and a callused heart, oh my Lord, I come to thee. Let me know your nature and walk in your ways.