Walking Our Talk Barefooted
A dear friend, co-minister in the Marianist family, and author recently shared some of her reflections about the experience of this Lenten journey. You are invited into her words of the heart below…
Walking our Talk Barefooted
There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustices, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest. Elie Wiesel
How often have we been asked to ‘walk our talk?’ In other words, if we believe in a cause or we have a view regarding a certain injustice, then instead of just bemoaning the circumstances or just talking about it, we are asked to actually do something about it. Walking our talk isn’t necessarily easy; but what if we are asked to walk our talk barefooted? When we walk barefoot we feel the ground under our feet which makes our feet subject to bruises, scratches, and cuts. Walking our talk barefoot is feeling our words and the depth of the injustice which in turn could subject our heart and soul to bruises, scratches and cuts.
Our nation has a history of people ‘walking their talk’ whether it is regarding the differences of classes, violation of rights to the protest of wars. The March for Life in DC is an example. Many walk this march for life to protest abortion but to walk this particular talk barefooted means more than protesting abortion, I believe it means marching for ‘all life’ not just ‘selected life.’ If we march for life then we walk against abortion, yes, and also against the vile treatment of our brothers and sisters who are gay; against the condemnation of our neighbors of other cultures other than our own. We walk against the demeaning treatment of anyone for whatever reason. We hear the cry of the poor and do not ignore the child born into poverty. We walk against the use of the death penalty; and we seek other solutions to the sword rattling speeches urging us to go to war. For if we are pro-life then we see God in not just the unborn but the lives of everyone outside the womb, including the woman carrying the unborn within her. We see God in our environment and in the creatures God so lovingly gave the world and we stop the destruction of both.
When we seek to see God in another then we may even see ourselves in them. Is this scary? Yes. There are many who don’t see God in everyone or everything. And let’s face it – it is extremely difficult to see God in a person when their actions are so evil. Jesus was certainly a victim of evil acts and yet what did He do? He asked God to forgive them; not condoning their actions but seeing God’s image and likeness deep within them and wanting their souls to once again reflect His Father.
We also recently celebrated Martin Luther King Day; honoring the man who forced a nation to see the social injustice of many of its people, walking his talk to DC and other cities – encouraging all of us to walk with him. He walked his talk barefooted with the scars of those who suffered for so many years. Was it easy? No. So many were against him and it takes courage and compassion to stand up for those who suffer the impact of racism and defilement of their humanity. There are many throughout history who have walked their talk barefoot. Some that come to mind are Abraham Lincoln, Dorothy Day, Ghandi and Nelson Mandela, Sister Dorothy Stang and Oscar Romero. Each one found themselves outside of their comfort zone to walk their talk for those who were lost to society; those oppressed and ignored; those brutally beaten and destroyed. Who in our own lives do we know who walk their talk barefoot?
Jesus could have remained quietly in the background, teaching others of God’s dream for all of us but He took the path God asked of Him and walked it – barefoot. He didn’t just point out the errors of our ways He challenged us to change our ways. Because of this many found Him anti-God, anti-law, and anti-their way of life. He walked His talk with courage and compassion; feeling the pain and frustration of the poor and those treated unjustly; challenging all of us to see God’s image and likness in all of creation. The final path to Golgotha, Jesus carried the weight of our sins upon His shoulders; walking His talk barefooted which not only bruised His actual feet but His heart and spirit as well.
At the Last Supper, Jesus took a basin of water and a towel to wash the feet of the apostles. Jesus explained to everyone there; “You may not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” (John 13:7.) I’m wondering though if Jesus wasn’t also looking at the feet of His followers, knowing the challenges and courage it was going to take to walk their talk barefooted; seeing the bruises, cuts and wounds they were about to endure for Him, both physically and spiritually. I like to think Jesus also was blessing their feet and not just cleansing them.
As we face injustices in our world, we have choices – we can talk about it and do nothing, or we can walk our talk and do something, which is good – or we can be even more open to Jesus’ call and walk our talk barefooted. We might get some bruises or cuts – but following Jesus’ teachings has never been about comfort and Jesus never said it would be easy but that it will be rewarded in heaven. As I write this column I know of my own limitedness, doubts and fears. I’m not sure if I can walk my talk barefooted. It scares me! Leaving a comfort zone of any kind is scary but envisioning a smiling Jesus, with possibly a basin of water and a towel at the end of my journey, ready to bless my feet makes the contemplation of walking barefoot worthwhile.
As we walk with Jesus this Holy Season of Lent and Easter, may we find the courage and grace to take off our shoes and take the chance and be open to continue to follow His teachings – barefoot.
By Susan Handle Terbay