Sunday, February 23, 2014

Tie My Shoes

As many of you know, once upon a time, when I was an 18 year old aspiring missionary, I spent some time working at a school in Lambare, Paraguay. The majority of this work was in the school office, helping make workbooks for the school's English classes and photocopying and filing, but on occasion, I ventured out into the school and interacted with the kids.

The thing you need to know about Paraguayan Spanish is that it's a different brand than you learn in school. It's very fast and a lot of times blended with Guarani, the country's indigenous language. In short, if you are a moderate Spanish speaker at best, as I was, you will probably definitely get lost.

And the thing you need to know about small children speaking Paraguayan Spanish very, very, very fast is run. Just run. It's so fast and jumbled and you're just going to get lost so...I mean...if you don't run, don't say I didn't warn you. My first day at the school, the missionaries decided that total immersion was the best policy, and thus I ended up in a classroom with a teacher that spoke no English and a class full of preschoolers who found the new person to be a complete novelty. Children have odd ways to express affection. In the case of one little boy, it happened to be through his shoestrings.

I attempted to get fully immersed and play with the kids, and as I frantically fumbled through the motions of (very) shaky Spanish, a little boy came up to me, presented a little foot with shoestrings undone and simply said, "Zapato?" (Shoe?)

Finally! A word I understood! Thank you, small child, for showing that God has not forsaken me! Bless you! I smiled at him, attempted to hide the complete and utter relief from understanding just one word, and tied his shoe. He grinned back and ran off to play with his friends.
Five minutes later, I felt a tug on my sleeve. I turned around and found my new friend. He looked up at me, grinned, and once again, said only, "Zapato?"

I looked at him and laughed for a moment. "Tu zapato es bien!" (Your shoe is fine!)

"No es!" (No, it's not!)
He presented his foot again, and yet again, the shoes were untied. I tied his shoes again, he smiled, and once more went along to play with his friends.

A few moments later, I felt yet another tug on my sleeve. Sure enough, my little friend had once more come to visit me, shoe untied, giggling. "Otro vez?" (Again?) he said. And we laughed and I, once again, tied the little boy's shoes, and for the first time since I had landed, felt a bit of relief and odd purpose.

"The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." (2 Peter 3:9)

I hadn't thought about this shoe story for several years. Not until today, during my drive home did I remember the giggles of the little boy, and his persistent return with untied shoes. He came back to me three times, with shoes untied, knowing full well that I took joy in our game and that I would put his shoe ties back together.

The story came from nowhere as God spoke to me in that still, small voice I've come to fear and cherish in equal measure.

"You're so concerned that you'll fall short and not measure up. All I want you to do is let me tie your shoes."
Every person at some point (or daily) in their walk, will fall. They will stumble and falter and fall short and will absolutely, 110 % need the mercy of God. The New Living Translation puts the well-known Romans verse best, "For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God's glorious standard." 

Perfection can be striven for, but never attained this side of glory. I will never, ever be perfect and to be completely honest, I'm not okay with that. I am a person that needs answers and perfection and I will beat myself up over and over again when I step on my shoelaces and leave them untied. I stand before an all too loving and merciful God, present my mess of a life to Him, and humbly ask Him, "Otro vez?" 

And He gently kneels down and ties my shoelaces, kisses me on the forehead, and sends His child once more on her way, urging her to do better, knowing full well that she will forever be a work in progress, loving her enough to be willing to deal with that. 

No comments: