it is human tendency to prioritize.
whether consciously or not, things have inherently differing value.
the squeaky shoes and the passports, if you will.
allow me to explain.
a few weeks ago, i packed a suitcase full of stuff that mattered to me and boarded a plane. i flew to Europe and saw a bunch of things. i traveled from city to city, and all of the stuff that had so neatly fit into my suitcase before i left, suddenly seemed to grow in confidence. i couldn’t believe how difficult it was to zip.
since i was moving around from hotel to hotel in many different cities, something had to go. there just wasn’t enough room for it all.
i had brought a pair of black mary jane shoes. they were a very nice brand and quite comfortable.
however, the left shoe had taken up a hobby. it squeaked.
inconsistently at first, i tried to ignore it in hopes it would disappear. yes, i have my moments of 5 year old reasoning, where i think to myself, “surely if i ignore this problem, it will simply disappear.”
that doesn’t ever work.
so a few mornings in, I took the shoes and carefully placed them on the floor next to the bed.
i zipped up my suitcase, tossed my hair, and closed the hotel room behind me. i went downstairs, checked out, and moved on.
until this morning, i haven’t thought about those shoes since.
this morning, i sat in church. i attend church with my entire family, which is quite large. typically, we fill an entire row of chairs in the balcony. there are lots of children amongst us, so it’s much better for everyone involved if we simply hide out upstairs. after all, we can barely maintain our chaos for a 90 minute service.
i found myself, this morning, seated between my two sisters, who are 7 and 9 years old.
my family adopted several kids out of the Washington state foster care system. my parents were licensed foster parents for 12 years and lots of little ones came and went, calling my family theirs for a period of time. a few of them never left.
my 9 year old sister, who was sitting to my right, experienced a lot of rejection during her years in foster care. and although she is now a member of my family and has been for 5 years, there will always be permanent scars.
during the sermon, i sat with my arm around her shoulders. she leaned into me and i found myself thinking about my passport.
when i was getting ready to travel, i knew that i wanted to keep my passport close to me.
after all, i am an American citizen, and i would be flying in a plane over a very large ocean to a country that i didn’t live in. eventually, i did hope to come home. and my passport was the only way i could get back.
so i purchased a soft pink wallet that hung around my neck. it wasn’t heavy, i could fit the passport neatly inside one of its zippered pockets, and it nestled nicely against my side. i wore this throughout the trip, and even forgot it was there. i grew accustomed to having it close to me, and i wanted it there. after all, it was my way home.
there were a lot of things that i could replace. but not that.
i could buy more shoes, hopefully ones that didn’t squeak. any number of the many things that i so unceremoniously crammed into my suitcase could disappear and i would be able to find another to take its place. granted, some were more expensive than others. but the squeaky shoes that i so carelessly discarded never again crossed my mind.
until this morning.
i found myself wondering: how many times in my little sister’s life has she felt like squeaky shoes?
less than convenient. kind of broken. not really that beautiful. easily discarded. quickly replaceable.
because i know this to be true: there are many, many people who feel this way.
walking through international airports gets my head moving in ways that very few other places do. so many faces. so many people going somewhere. i don’t know who they are or where they are going. i may never see them again, and for this brief instant, we are in the same place at the same time. we are alike.
but then the moment is gone. i go to my place, you go to yours.
but i look into blank eyes and i wish.
i wish that every person could understand how valuable they are.
my little sister sat very well through church this morning. i wonder if it was because, as we sat side by side, i made a conscious effort to maintain physical contact. i pressed my palm to her shoulder, squeezed her knee, dropped a kiss to the top of her head.
i just felt like i needed to. something inside of me was stirring me to do whatever i could to let her know: you are valued. you matter. you are irreplaceable, and i’m sorry that in the past so many people have led you to believe that you were disposable. you are not squeaky shoes. you are a passport.
as i am writing this, i realize that those are the words of God the Father.
i believe, with all my heart, that God sees me and He sees you. He sees everybody.
and when he looks at people, He doesn’t see any squeaky shoes. He sees only passports.
and i know that the world is broken. i know that people treat each other with much less dignity than we should. i am aware that some people do not have anybody who is holding them close like a passport. i understand what it’s like to feel discarded, placed by the side of a hotel bed without a second thought.
which is why i cling to tightly to this hope.
in the Bible, there is a verse that says this:
i will never forget you
see, i have written your name in the palms of my hands.
[from the book of Isaiah, chapter 49]
that says to me a few things.
God knows my name. it’s like a tattoo on the palm of His hand. that’s not something that you just discard, i mean the hand is attached. it’s not going anywhere.
also, there’s no chance of being forgotten.
doesn’t that make you feel irreplaceable? to be held so closely like that, it’s a sign of importance. immense value. deep regard.
it makes me want to take a deep breath and close my eyes in gratitude.
it also makes me want to extend that level of value to other people that i come into contact with. like you.
i hope that you know how irreplaceable you are. i hope you feel like a passport. i hope that you understand the value that you have, and i am sincerely sorry for the times in your life in which you felt disposable. i am sorry if you’ve ever felt like a pair of squeaky shoes. you’re not.
you matter. God says so.