Rev. John Farmer’s ‘Reflections’ column

by John Howard Farmer

My Father’s Shoes

Kids go through familiar passages, always thinking themselves unique to each situation.

I marvel at the lads and lasses I encounter and try as hard as I might to decipher just whom the youngster is emulating. Sometimes it will be a person in their peer group. Often, it is some significant adult. More often than that, it is some TV personality—either from MTV or a sports figure.

The older we get, the more peculiar we imagine our youths to be. Let’s not forget all the bizarre behavior we adopted on our journey to adulthood.

Some dear readers are recovering flappers, with their slicked-down coiffures, beads and shimmy-shimmy dresses. Some seniors of today are cowpoke holdovers from Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, Wild Bill Hicock and the likes.

Along the way, I remember dressing as close as I could to Flash Gordon, a hero of mine from the old Ponton and Venus Theatre days. My roots are deep in old south Richmond, actually the town of Manchester. Of course I had a Superman cape as well, constructed from one of Rosena’s best bath towels. It was clipped onto my shirt by a pair of strong wooden clothespins. Man, I could really fly with that cape on! I left the Batman costumes to my playmates.

All the little girls I have known loved to play dress-up in Mom’s or Grandmother’s dresses, gloves and hats. Quite the fashion plate, eh?

During my later high school days, it was the fashion for us guys to wear cotton poplin slacks, with about a 10-inch belt device across the rear (affectionately called hinny-binders). If one was in love and had the good fortune to be “going steady,” one buckled the belt. If still available, one left the belt to dangle. That way, it could scar all the school desks, car upholstery and Mom’s best furniture.

Our feet were allowed four outfits: Ball athletic shoes with ankle patches, black&white saddle oxfords, loafers with pennies inserted on each, and of course bare—nothing at all. Toughness was determined about how hot a surface one could stand and how quickly one could meander over the terrain. There was little gravel about in those days. Most often, the schoolyards had sand, concrete or cinders from burnt coal for athletic tacks. One was really tough when one could traverse barefooted the track of cinders without injury. It was sort of a test of manhood.

Once, after my parents left for work, I stole into Dad’s closet to fetch a pair of his shoes—by then we wore the same size. I remember them being real grown-up shoes: a variation of saddle oxfords, all tan and beige, with airy nylon toes. I tried them on, and sure enough, they fit. So, off to Manchester High I went. All day long I pranced around and just imagined how fine I must look in my dad’s shoes (psychologists can have a field day with this admission, I am sure). Truth is, I can’t remember anyone commenting on any of my attire, other than the normal hazing that went with being a skinny, freckled-faced, red-haired lad. That was a description of merit often tossed my way by the more popular lads.

For that day, at least, I was feeling good about myself, strutting around in Dad’s shoes. It didn’t matter what anyone else thought.

The Native Americans are credited with a saying along the lines of “one needs to walk a mile in another man’s moccasins.”

The New Testament holds out for those who precede Jesus to make the rough places plain, and the path safe for those who come after us. It started with John the Baptist and his cousin Jesus of Nazareth, who became the Christ. In those days, bare feet were acceptable. Wealthy chaps wore woven sandals.

A while back, my friend Linda Tomlinson was introduced to one of my favorite songs: “I Walked Today Where Jesus Walked.”  The song concludes with the words “I walked today where Jesus walked and felt him close to me.” She too found it up-lifting.

Walking along the path of Christ has little to do with what we wear upon our feet or not. It is about our lifelong pilgrimage of faith. It is about helping others along the way. It is about being a living Christ to those who need love and assurance.

My borrowing of my dad’s shoes was my attempt to be more like him. He was a super chap and a good dad. Above and beyond that temporal admission, I try and remember daily that I must always walk in my Lord’s way. It is a narrow path, one so easily from which to slip. But remember this: it is a higher road than we would travel otherwise.

Well, try a new exercise program with me. Let’s all walk in Jesus’ shoes. Let’s all find that straight and narrow path. When we do, we can travel the road with sure knowledge that we will someday walk right off this earth into the loving arms of our savior who awaits our journey’s end. The destination is safe—it is eternal. Don’t forget that part of our stewardship is to make the path safe, attainable and welcoming to others.