Last week, I flew to Orlando to preach in a church that has supported me in my mission work for years. It is a large church with an incredible ministry around the world. Every Sunday-morning service is a huge production. The stage is filled with instruments; the choir is made up of different nationalities; and the church probably spends more money on smoke machines than most churches do on coffee.
At this church, the services are televised and broadcast across every social media you can think of. Like many churches, they have two services–one for those who still wear suits and ties and another for those who don’t own either. After the first service, the pastor changes into more casual clothes for the second one.
When I am the guest preacher anywhere, I always ask about the appropriate dress for that church. I want to be like the apostle Paul and become all things to all people, so I might win a few. I was instructed to dress more formally for the first service and more casually for the second.
After I flew into Orlando, I picked up my rental car and headed to the hotel. I opened my suitcase and hung up my jacket, dress shirt and tie. I got out my Sunday shoes, and that’s when I noticed I had a problem. In my haste, I had packed two left shoes. They didn’t even look alike. One was a brown loafer, a more casual shoe, and the other was a black wingtip dress shoe. At that point, it was 7 at night, and I realized I only had a short time to solve my problem. I began to lay out my options:
1) Do I wear my worn-out tennis shoes with my Sunday attire? I could explain that I had come prepared for both services: a jacket and tie on the top and slacks with jogging shoes on the bottom.
2) Do I try to wear both left shoes, hoping no one notices—and ask the cameramen to shoot me only from the ankles up?
3) Do I stand on a street corner wearing both left shoes, holding a sign that says, “Will work for a right shoe?”
4) Or do I go out and buy some new shoes? Shoes are expensive, and I have a perfectly good pair of right shoes at home.
Then I got the bright idea of posting a picture of my dilemma on Facebook, asking others what they would do if they were in my shoes. The comments and jokes started pouring in. One person suggested I write a book called Left Behind. That was a good idea, but it was the right shoes that were left behind. Another one suggested I wear one shoe, bandage up the other foot and hobble into church on crutches. I was tempted to follow that advice, but then people would want to come up and pray healing over me. Another person wrote, “Wear both left shoes and use them as a part of your sermon illustrations.” As creative as I am, I couldn’t think of a good way to do that. But the majority of the people said, “Go shopping.”
The one comment that hit me hardest was posted by my wife: “That is what you get for packing at the last minute in the dark.” As usual, she was right; I had waited too long to pack. I have done this suitcase ritual hundreds of times and have never had a problem before—at least not any I can share in a public forum.
At 8:30 p.m., I went to a shoe store and asked the lady if by chance, a one-legged man had come in and bought a size 10.5 left shoe and left the right one behind. Nothing is more frustrating than when you’re trying to be serious and someone thinks you’re kidding. While she was still laughing, I picked out a new pair of shoes to purchase.
What did I learn from this experience? Not much. But I did hear from many about their packing misadventures. I found solace, encouragement and comfort in hearing from those who had experienced a similar plight.
Did you know Jesus understands everything you are going through? That is why He left heaven—so he could experience your life, your pains, your trials and even your misadventures. Jesus has been where you are, and you can trust Him with your life today. Even when you feel left alone, left behind or left out, He can make it right—every time.
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin” (Heb. 4:15).