In late October I received an unexpected package from a friend who has walked me through some hard life events. It was a pair of slippers, hand knit from Iceland. Accompanying the slippers was a note that read “Take care of your feet. You are walking a hard path.”
I responded the only way possible – with tears. We talk so much about being “seen” these days that there are times when I feel the words lose their power. But the only way to express how I felt as I read the note and put on the slippers was that I felt seen. Seen, understood, comforted, nurtured, and held. Such was the power of a pair of slippers and the note that came with them.
We often pause before comforting. What if what I say or give is not enough? What if I’m off base? What if my attempts at understanding and alleviating suffering are rejected or misunderstood? And we ourselves know what it is to be an embarassment to others because of our own struggling and suffering. C.S. Lewis talks about this in his beautiful book A Grief Observed. We opt then for avoiding not only the suffering, but the sufferer. I guarantee that we will sometimes get it wrong. But that is still not a reason to avoid entering the pain and the suffering of others.
“If your friend is sick and dying” says the philosopher Peter Kreeft “the most important thing he wants is not an explanation; he wants you to sit with him. He is terrified of being alone more than anything else. So God has not left us alone. And for that, I love him”
Perhaps if we don’t know what to do or how to show love, we may just send slippers. Slippers with a note of understanding and solidarity. My friend’s gift of slippers to me was similar to the woman washing Jesus’ feet with her tears. Just as the woman entered into Christ’s suffering with extraordinary love and service, so did my friend enter into my journey with the same. No other gift but slippers and her note could feel so steady and sweet, a gift to ease the walk and words to comfort the way.
It is this gift that I think of during this third week of Advent, the week when we think of love and the ultimate love of God the Father in sending his beloved son. God Incarnate, come to walk in this world as one of us, to struggle with tiredness, hunger, grief, and temptation. God, who heals the broken hearted and binds up their wounds. God, who gives us a part of himself through friends who send slippers.
PS: If you have a friend who is struggling, send slippers. I guarantee the gift will help them face their struggle.