james ray johnson

My son was in the marching band.  His uniform included a pair of white shoes – stark white shoes.  You could wear them in the dark to find your way.

I had to provide these shoes.  They were expensive and only good for marching.   We tried to get him to forgo the prom rentals and wear his whities instead, but he refused. 

Every two years we had to upsize to accommodate his growing feet.  We forced his discards on his younger brother. 

This worked well until his junior year.  He was wearing size 16 by then.   They don’t carry size 16 white shoes at Wal-Mart.  But we did locate a pair at abominable-snowman.com. 

His little brother tried them on, and we decided to ship him to Florida to audition for the Ringling Brothers Circus: Atten: Clown Department.  

My son most definitely left behind some big shoes to fill.

But so did my dad!

Dad was my childhood hero without a doubt.  Such a hard worker.  He was once actually criticized by the union steward who said, “Slow down, you’re making the rest of us look bad.”

He had opportunities to move into management, but he turned them down because it would have meant upending his family.

He put his kids through private school and financed it by doing things like cutting his own hair.

He could warm your bottom with a needed swat, and then warm your heart with a hug.

He seldom interfered once I was on my own, but was ready to offer sound advice when I sought it.  

He wasn’t a perfect man, but certainly a good one. 

Dad has gone on to glory.  His enormous shoes are empty and need to be filled.  Could I be that kind of man for my wife and kids, my grandkids and my employer? 

Possibly!  Moses, the legendary leader of Israel, had died, after he had led Israel out of Egypt, through the Red Sea, around the wilderness and to the east bank of the Jordan River. 

A younger man named Joshua was tasked with leading the nation across the river and into the land to finish what Moses had started – to claim the promises that God made to Abraham centuries before. 

Moses’ sandals felt like size 16s.  But God knew that, which is why He told him, “Be strong and brave! Don’t be afraid and don’t panic, for I, the Lord your God, am with you in all you do.” – Joshua 1:9, -NET Bible®.    

There was lots to fear – hostile forces, a sketchy supply chain and the prospect of failure.  God didn’t diminish the challenges, but He magnified the solution instead.  He promised to go with him wherever he went and in all that he did.

God told him to be brave.  I am not sure that you can just will yourself to feel brave, when you are feeling afraid.  You can however, move forward, despite your fears, trusting God to help you succeed.  That’s the kind of bravery the Lord had in mind for Joshua.

As a kid, I watched some teens play pinball at the bowling alley.  I accidentally bumped the table.  The game began to flash the word “tilt” and it shut down.  There were 3 angry teenage boys ready to tilt me.  I was terrified. 

Just then, my dad appeared.  I ran to him and left my fears back at the pinball machine.  The presence of a father can do that for a kid. 

Joshua assumed the lead.  When his crew stepped in the waters of the Jordan, the river ceased to flow, and Israel walked through it, just as they had once walked through the Red Sea with Moses.

What shoes do you need to fill?  

Are you subbing for a beloved teacher or maybe replacing the supervisor at work who just retired?  Perhaps the memory of your mother is making you feel inadequate as a mom or maybe you are a widower and your wife has left a huge hole in your family life.  If so – remember, “Be strong and brave! Don’t be afraid and don’t panic, for I, the Lord your God, am with you in all you do.”