So Won’t the Real Preacher Please Stand Up?

At our church, the traditional and contemporary services are held at the same time and I spend most of my Sundays preaching at the contemporary service.

A few Sundays ago, I preached at the traditional service for the first time in a long time.
And I went barefoot — as I have been doing recently in the contemporary service.
I used to preach in my socks a while back at that service. But after we rearranged the worship space and it brought me closer to the congregation, I stopped for various reasons, one being my socks were a source of distraction. It’s only recently that I went completely barefoot.

It was the first time I preached without shoes at the traditional service.
Someone told one of our staff that she kept wondering when the real preacher would finally show up because certainly a real preacher would wear shoes.
… you gotta love church folks….
But to be fair, regardless of my footwear or lack of, wondering if I’m a real preacher is a legitimate concern…

Unfortunately, Shoeless Joe ended up being a huge distraction. I honestly and sincerely did not think it would be that much of a distraction. I regret not informing the congregation why I choose to be barefoot in this season of my life.

So, for those of you who’ve been asking, Here’s why:

…. but a little backstory first…

Late in the year of 2015, my life was filled with angst and frustration. Maybe it was burnout. Maybe it was fatigue. But the world weighed heavily on my shoulders.
There were also so many life altering decisions that laid ahead of us — the heaviest one being: do we adopt our foster son or not?

I needed to put things in perspective.
There was a beach I visited often to pray. And a crazy thought popped into my head while prayer walking the shoreline:
I need to go skydiving. 

So I did.
A friend generously took me skydiving and purchased the video of my skydiving so that I can use it for a sermon.
Since actual money was spent on the video, I feel the need to show it every chance that I get.

I had no control of the situation.
My life was in the hands of this guy who I had just met.
And he lied to me.
We were the last ones to jump out of the plane. My feet were dangling… I don’t know, a million feet from the ground (give or take a million). Maybe he felt my hesitance. But he said we were going to jump on 3 and to get ready.
We jumped on 1.

I felt incredible amount of freedom in relenting control.
At one point he asked if I wanted to steer the parachute: “Nah man. I’d rather live.” was my response.

There were a few lessons I learned that day:
1) I realized I was a control freak more than I wanted to admit. I rather have things be done on my time rather than God’s time; my way rather than God’s way.
2) My faith journey gets rather complicated when I make things about me. It took falling out of a plane to wake me up and realize I don’t sit on the throne in the center of the universe. And it’s incredibly freeing to confess that I’m not God.
3) If you don’t put yourself into “this is crazy” situations, you won’t experience “this is awesome” moments. Risk is a part of faith. Otherwise, why would we need faith when we are certain of everything?

Being able to experience what it’s like to fly (… okay, what it feels like to fall from the sky…) was the integral moment of us deciding to move to Texas.
While it may have not made sense, I trusted God.

I now find myself in another season that seems to be defined by angst, anxiety, and frustration.

Frustration can diminish the power of God in one’s life.
It was Moses’ frustration that led him to act out of anger that barred him from entering the Promised Land.

Frustration can block and clog the path of God’s spirit in our lives.
It gets in the way of us seeing cleary. It clouds and confuses our hearts.

Frustration can also lead to arrogance and pride.
We may never flat out say “why can’t you be smart/woke/alert/aware/knowledgable as I am?”
But that sentiment is there. So you start discounting people; looking down on them; all the while your ego is being built up.

Following God can get complicated when I make it about me rather than about God.

Maybe you’re suggesting that I go skydiving again.
I ain’t got time for that.
I’ve been twice and that’s more than enough. I never need to jump out of a plane again.
On top of that — did you see the view in my video? Texas is not going to give me such a beautiful view.

My friend Michael preaches barefoot. But he also lives near the ocean, so it makes sense for him to do it there rather than in the middle of the suburbs.
But he suggested that I go all the way and ditch the socks.

The foundation of taking off our shoes stems from Exodus 3, when Moses is standing in the presence of God and God tells him to take off his sandals “for the place [he is] standing is holy ground.”

It wholly and fully and physically reminds me that I am indeed standing on holy ground.
That God is in the midst of us. That God is the God of right here and right now.

But in this season of life, there’s more to the barefooted-ness.
I don’t like my feet.
I don’t like people touching it. I’m super ticklish. Feet are sort of gross. Definitely no foot fetish here.
I don’t like people looking at my feet either.

But all that insecurity and awkwardness helps me to center myself in God’s presence.
It keeps me grounded — after all my ugly feet are exposed to everyone.
It reminds me to be humble.
That I’m an average Joe. That I’m not any more special than others; that I’m certainly not better than anyone else.
That even though I stand in front of people and all eyes are fixed on me (okay, some eyes are fixed on me; others on phones; still others closed. Just FYI — we preachers can see all that you’re doing thinking we can’t see you…. ) — they are not my audience but they are God’s people and that I am not just God’s servant, but the congregation’s.
And that I have the honor, privilege, responsibility, and burden to be God’s mouthpiece. But again, that doesn’t make me more qualified or special than someone else.
God once spoke through an ass to Balaam and God continues to speak through asses like me to this day.
That this is never about me; but this is always about God and what God can and is doing through our lives together.

It has given me a sense of peace and understanding and clarity in vision.
There’s this tendency; this desire to constantly make things about me… but it pivots my heart towards God and my heart is full.

And you know what Coach Taylor says:

Clear eyes.
Full hearts.
Can’t lose. 

This might make no sense to you — and I’m okay with that. I’m not trying to convince you of anything.
But in this season of my life, it makes absolute sense to me and it’s helping me to walk with open hands ready and willing to receive whatever God may have in store for me rather than white knuckling everything.

Maybe you should show up to church the following Sunday with your shoes off, being physically reminded of how holy the ground you are standing on is. Maybe it’ll knock off the cob webs of the rut and routine we fall into being regular attenders of church. Maybe it’ll help awaken your spirit and soul to prepare– to anticipate– actually encountering Christ every time you step in for corporate worship.
I’m all for whatever gives you a clarity of vision and fills your heart with the Spirit.
Because you know:

Clear eyes
Full hearts
Can’t lose. 

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