Your sandals did not wear out, nor did your feet swell during these forty years.*
These words, my own hybrid of two verses in Deuteronomy, invigorate my faith like a potent shot of B12.
They spring to mind often, usually when I’m worrying about money (imminent retirement! with no savings and a hefty mortgage!) or during long walks, when I’m contemplating my strange, circuitous life and God’s infinite goodness. They remind me to pay attention, just as Moses reminded the Israelites as they were about to enter the Promised Land.
Moses speaks these words after the Israelites had spent 40 years wandering the desert on a journey that should have taken merely weeks. It was a long, tumultuous time of testing – both ways. To prepare them for the next step, Moses preaches the obvious: God had orchestrated and guided every step of their exodus and deliverance to Canaan, from Pharaoh’s hubris to the parting of the Red Sea to the daily provision of manna and water. But their minds, like ours, were often dull. Had they even noticed the little miracles?
In all those years, over all those punishing miles, no one got blisters or swollen feet.
No one needed a new pair of sandals.
Nor did they need new clothing, according to Deut. 29:5. Imagine the wear and tear of the desert sun (plus all that dust and sweat) on those Hebrew robes. Two or three summers in our bright Okanagan sunshine, and my shorts and tops are bleaching out and almost ready for the bin. What would 40 scorching desert years do to even the finest of robes?
Did the Israelites even notice? Or were they too busy feeling sorry for themselves?
22 years ago, when we were living in Virginia Beach for a spell, I bought a perfect pair of sandals for around $25. They had hard, dark-brown platform heels, elevating my short height by three or four inches in a gracious illusion of legginess. They looked fantastic. And yet the platforms were essentially flat, making them the most comfortable pair of “heels” I’ve ever worn. The uppers were solid, criss-crossed, goes-with-everything brown leather. And they did go with everything: I wore them with dresses, shorts, skirts, and capris. They scored constant compliments. And they were remarkably strong and sturdy: virtually indestructible.
I wore them everywhere, every spring/summer/early fall day, for the next ten years, and they painlessly walked me through miles of Indianapolis, Norfolk, London, and Vancouver. They were hardy as hiking boots and served as such, carrying me through a tour of Israel and countless summer rambles on rougher ground. They got dusty, for sure, but nothing a quick swipe with a rag couldn’t fix. They looked the same, year after year, and seemed ageless.
Then, in the summer of 2006, my son and I travelled to India to meet his birth family, and my brown leather darlings were – as ever — my chosen footwear. They’d be perfect, I figured, for the waterlogged streets of Mumbai. Back in the eighties, I’d lived through two monsoons and knew what to expect. Turgid brown water runs deep and thick in the streets, and there’s no avoiding it. When the monsoons hit, everyone ditches fashion and switches to quick-drying polyester clothes and rubber shoes till the streets dry up. The leather shoes languishing in closets grow green with mold. But this time, I’d have a step up. Wearing my super-duper platforms, I’d could avoid unsightly, blister-forming rubber shoes AND navigate the flooded streets as if I were wearing stilts.
My son, with his lifelong passion for expensive athletic footwear, hated the monsoons and what they did to even the oldest pair of shoes I recommended he wear. To his youthful dismay, he’d bought himself a pair of the newest Nikes and couldn’t wear them. But my sandals worked great. My feet got wet, but less, and the shoes dried out. Or at least they did for the first few days. Eventually, like everything else in the streets, they bloated with liquid sludge and gave up the ghost. My favorite, everlasting sandals were ruined.
Yes, I still miss them, and have never found anything close to replacing them. But their lovely decade in my life reminds me of the Israelites’ sandals, and of the subtle miracle of every enduring pair: likely more than two million pairs, matched by the same number of unswollen feet and imperishable garments.
The sandal miracles profoundly illustrate God’s care for us. God thinks of everything, even if we don’t, down to the condition of our pinkie toes. He gets what it means to have quotidian, human needs we might forget to pray for. He knows what’s up ahead for each of us, and how to prepare us for the unforeseen.
Basically, He has everything covered.
The miracle-of-the-sandals epitomizes all the acts of grace we overlook in our own desert wanderings. The almost-got-in-a-head-on, but didn’t.
The scrappy, essential car that keeps on running, long after its odometer has clicked off the charts.
The devoted, nurturing pets that live way past their predicted lifespan, vet-free.
The friends you left behind, re-entering your life at just the right moments and lifting your flagging spirits.
The all-clear from the dentist you can’t afford on your first visit in ten years.
The flu you didn’t catch when you had no sick days at work and couldn’t afford a single day off. And so on. You get the idea, and I’m sure you can think of more.
One of the best things about heaven will be looking back at our lives from God’s perspective and seeing the millions of ways God lovingly covered us when we were oblivious. Surely, our dull little minds will be blown! But why wait till heaven? Take some time in your day to ponder these verses – the two in Deuteronomy, or my simple amalgam — and ask yourself, What are the sandal miracles in my life?
Whatever they are, it’s never too late to thank God for keeping you safe, fit, healthy, and solvent. Or for providing exactly what you need when things do go haywire, as they sometimes will. And it’s never too late to start paying more careful attention, as the Hebrew writers advises (Hebrews 2:1), to all the ways He’s got your back.
And to always, always be thankful.
What are the subtle sandal miracles in your life? Please share in the comments section!
Yet the Lord says, “During the forty years that I led you through the wilderness, your clothes did not wear out, nor did the sandals on your feet.
Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years.