My 4-year-old son was earnest in his bedtime prayer last night. Even with velcro strap shoes, it can be hard to tell the difference between the right one and the left one. Most times, he doesn’t really care, and I’ll catch him galumphing around, with shoes on the wrong feet. But lately, he’s making an effort to get it right.
The ability to put on your own shoes is something that able-bodied adults take for granted. It’s not hard. You get ready for the day, and, just like Mr. Rogers, you get your shoes out of your closet and put them on. Maybe you even simultaneously sing, “It’s such a good feeling to know you’re alive! And when you wake up ready to say, I think I’ll make a snappy new day!” Okay, well, you probably don’t do that. But sweet old Mr. Rogers could certainly sing and put shoes on at the same time like nobody’s business, and there’s something to be said for that.
Most of us go about our days doing a multitude of things that are not considered to be insurmountable tasks. They are so surmountable, in fact, that there is practically nothing to surmount. Brushing our teeth. Eating food. Noticing the sky. Hearing our family’s voices. Simply getting out of bed in the morning. But if you can do those things, you can be thankful.
From this little prayer out of my son’s little heart, maybe there is a light dawning in him that God is in all things that he faces. Not just the enormous challenges, but the ones as small as putting on a size 11 shoe, which, to a 4-year-old, is one that requires some divine help.
In 1993, Christian artist Billy Sprague wrote a song called “Press On,” in which he sang this: “Press on, mi amigo. Press on, mon ami. Walk on in the face of the mystery. Though the night hides the light through the darkness ‘til dawn, tie your shoes, my dear friend, and press on.”
My mother once played that song for a dear, elderly widow in our small church, a lady who needed some encouragement. And the following Sunday, in the middle of the service during a song, mom said that she looked across the aisle at Ms. Ethel, who met her gaze and then bent down to “tie her shoes” in a gesture of understanding. As Ms. Ethel stood back up, she flashed mom a quick thumbs-up and a smile. She had gotten the message. She was putting on her shoes and pressing on.
Today, whatever it may bring, must begin with putting on shoes. Before you go out to face this world and all that awaits you there, you’ve got to have something on your feet. You’ve got to start somewhere. You might be lifting your eyes up to some pretty big hills, ones that you are dreading to climb (Psalm 121), but your help comes from the Lord.
“The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives.” (Psalm 37:23).
Below is the obscure video for “Press On.” (You will be prompted to watch it on youtube rather than here on my blog). Obviously, it is dated and quirky, but I am touched by the little boy struggling to put on his red Converse tennis shoes. His frustrated facial expression at 1:29 is one of a child lifting up his eyes to a big old hill in front of him -- a hill upon which his shoelaces just won’t go where he wants them to go, and his fingers won’t do what he wants them to do. But in the end…he climbs it.
Press on, friends!