Several years ago there was an email circulating around (still might be somewhere) all about our feet. It was aimed at our women friends (though I vaguely remember a footnote saying this might be good info for guys too) and it was prompted each year by the onset of Sandal Season (yes, that is an actual season). I received this from several people several years in a row, which led me to believe that either 1) my friends used to really love forwarding emails or 2) my friends did not want me to be caught in a terrible faux pas or 3) my feet had already somehow offended somebody and I needed this info badly. Nobody ever said and I was afraid to ask.
This email basically told the reader that it was every woman's responsibility to get a pedicure if she was planning on wearing sandals. It listed all the things about feet that nobody wanted to see that could be cured by a pedicure. Evidently, not only do good fences make good neighbors, but so do heels that have seen a pumice stone. Who knew? The email asked the reader to promise to follow all the listed feet rules and to pass on the list so our girlfriends could make the promise too. There was some good advice on the list, but you could tell that whoever the writer was, she had some serious issues with exposed feet. Very few people ever saw me in sandals and I had not been raised by a woman who ever paid for pedicures (or manicures), so I just filed this information away for future reference. However, I did end up with a healthy paranoia about offending people with my feet. As far as I knew, it wasn't Biblical. The only foot-care story I remember from Bible class was Jesus washing the Apostles feet. Nevertheless, I felt duly warned and tried to keep my unpolished toes from the light of day whenever possible.
Fast forward a few years. Either due to the natural cycle of things or Global Warming (I don't feel very opinionated on this one), summers in Texas have gotten substantially longer and hotter. Let me repeat that: LONGER AND HOTTER. My feet seem to be ending up in rather warm situations on a regular basis, so I have invested in some sandals (never pay retail - sales are a must). I don't have much practice at self-pedicures so my skills are greatly lacking. I decided to start investing in pedicures. Not the high class spa type, but just the corner-nail-salon pedicure. Hubby thought it was a good idea for me to pamper myself too.
Side note: Although my precious Mother never worried much about her nails, a few weeks before she passed away, a lady at the rehab center painted my Mom's nails a bright, rosy pink. Mom seemed quite taken with the color and liked showing it off. (The polish chipped and instead of repainting, the funeral home removed all of it - a source of disappointment to me and my niece.) This prompted me to buy my own bottle of OPI polish in the closest color I could find to what Mom had been wearing at the end. Another way to share something with her even though she was gone.
Today was the day to go get another pedicure. My nails had grown out and the polish was getting chipped. I threw on my Hawaiian-print flamingo shirt, some hot pink Capri pants, and a pair of flip-flops and headed for the nail salon. I also took a new book off the "read me" stack and put it in my purse without too much thought. There were only two women working and already two customers there, so I settled into one of those fabulous massage chairs for a wait. The television wasn't holding my interest, so I pulled out my book and that is when my day took a sharp right turn.
The book I had picked up before leaving the house was Crazy Love by Francis Chan. I've only seen one short Francis Chan video and never read one of his books before this, so I didn't know where we were headed yet. It didn't take long to figure out. Chan made it clear at the very outset of the book that he is not interested in having what has become the typical American religious experience. He is all about having a radical, Biblical relationship with God. And to do that, you have to know Who God Is. So we spent three chapters reacquainting ourselves with Who God Is.
I want to say now that though this book is intense from the get-go, there will probably be as many different experiences with it as there are readers. That is because we are all coming from a different place when we start. What this book has already stirred up in me might be radically different from what another reader might feel, and I’m okay with that. I don’t think Chan is looking for bland, homogeneous responses anyway. So please note that what I am telling you here is just about what happened to me today – it might have even hit me differently if I had started reading it at home or at the library. I don’t know for sure. What I do know is that I had a powerful, immediate response.
I wish I could tell you more about what Francis Chan wrote in the first three chapters of that book. But I can’t. I was having such an emotional reaction that what I can remember now is the feelings, not the quotes. I started to feel humble and contrite. I became very aware of my arrogance in the face of the Almighty God. My perceived need for stuff to make me feel good in a part of me that was reserved for feeling and knowing God got laid bare. I thought about my house that is so full of stuff that there are boxes upon boxes piled in the garage because all of the stuff won’t fit. I thought about the mold that I have been given to fill by the people around me so that we can all feel comfortable around each other. I thought about how sometimes I let people know what I give (so I can feel good about myself) when what I gave was never really mine to start with. Oh, Francis Chan and I were having quite the experience while that lovely lady was softly humming and working on my feet. The feet that God made but that might offend somebody if the nails are a little raggy.
Although I can’t remember in detail most of what Francis Chan “said” to me today, there was one thought that resonated with me, most likely because I’m a social worker by trade. He said that instead of us demanding that God explain why there are still starving people in the world, God should be asking us why there are still starving people in the world. I’m good with that. It works for me. With all the resources we have been given as His children, why aren’t we feeding each other?
So… no, I did not rush home to tell Charles that we needed to sell all of our stuff and go live among hungry people somewhere. I went shopping. You read that right – I went shopping. Even before my impromptu date with Francis Chan, I had planned to go on my first visit to 10,000 Villages, a non-profit store that sells fair trade goods. I had a Groupon coupon that I was going to use to buy some more decorations for our “Africa room” (we are redecorating Mom’s room in an African theme in honor of Kimenyi). I was a little distracted while shopping because I had been getting phone updates from Charles on the Women’s World Cup game (Japan vs. USA). Even so, Francis Chan had started stirring things in me that had not settled down. And I knew that when they settled, things would not look the same as before. So in the middle of a spiritual storm and soccer updates, I chose a few items to purchase and went up to the cash register. As I was waiting to hear what my overall total would be (minus the discount), the thought came to me (loudly in my head – I couldn’t believe that nobody else heard it) that what I had spent on my pedicure (cost plus tip) was 6 months salary for Kimenyi’s family, when the work is even available. Let me repeat that – I had just spent SIX MONTHS WORTH OF SALARY for the Rwandan family that I am now connected to on my toes so that I could keep the “girlfriend promise”.
I had forgotten to let you know the day it happened that we got our first letter from Kimenyi on Friday. I was so excited that I was dancing. Charles was still at work and I called him and blabbered in his ear about it (so excited that I’m not sure I was making complete sense). The letter had actually been written by Kimenyi’s mother Regina and then translated. (Charles – the man who still completely butchers English thinks we should learn their language so we won’t need translators. I’m going to let him make the first move on that.) In the letter, Regina said how happy Kimenyi was that we had chosen him – out of all the needy and deserving children – and we were now his “good, special parents” (heart pitter-patter). You need to know this because when I talk about feeling convicted about how I spend my money, I am not thinking about nameless, faceless children somewhere who might be in need. I am thinking about how my spending reflects on my relationship with my good, special son.
This would be a good time to point out that I am not saying that getting pedicures is sinful. I do think that vanity (pride) is a sin, but only I know in my heart (and you know in yours) when the line has been crossed from self-care to vanity. That line will be in different places for each person. Also, I am not saying that I will never get another pedicure (box of hair color, pretty jewelry, or whatever). I'll have to decide all of those things as they come up (again and again).
I believe that the point of today’s little exercise is that I need to re-evaluate some things. God has shown ultimate mercy on me in offering me forgiveness that I do not deserve. He has also showered me with many earthly gifts that He intends for me to share. I do not believe I could go forward on this journey of learning to “love mercy” if I tried to learn to show mercy with my heart without showing mercy with the resources that have been entrusted to me. I don’t think that will mean indiscriminately throwing money at problems. I will have to learn to be discerning and thoughtful with what God has generously given me.
I will need to pray for the emotional energy to finish Crazy Love. You can pray for me also if you are of a mind to. I’ll need it. I’ll be different at the end, for sure. I’ll let you know what color my toenails are when I get there. And so the journey goes on…