I have a pair of boots that I love. I bought them mid-2002, in part to use for a Vaudeville show I was in and in part to be my “grown up shoes” for daily wear (at the time, I had my Sunday shoes and several pairs of Converse All-Stars, including a black monochrome pair for special occasions). They were tan once upon a time, but after 16 years they’ve changed; after all, they are now old enough to drive themselves! As I shifted appointments in 2003 to a more rural church in central Illinois, they became my primary shoes as I made house calls, sat in combines, and drove my short-lived CJ-7.
They’re my favorite pair of shoes. Ever. They fit like nothing else before, or since. I’ve worn them through Illinois and Arizona and all parts in between; I have walked miles in DC and London in them, they’ve traversed the halls of the Smithsonian and Wesley Chapel; they’re even with me as I make my way along the Pacific Northwest and Alaska during this sabbatical time. I’ve travelled untold miles in these boots and they haven’t let me down. I pull them on with a pair of jeans and I feel taller, and indestructible.
But they have worn. Oh, my, how they’ve worn! Over the years I’ve had them re-soled multiple times, patched, re-welted, and I even had the cracked interior leather of the upper boot completely replaced. I’ve done everything I and my favorite “shoe guys” can imagine or do to lengthen their effectiveness.
But it’s becoming clear, my boots’ time is just about up. Too many new holes, cracks, and tears are appearing (oddly, mostly on the right boot!) to be patched effectively and the interior leather at the toes is disintegrating…
I don’t know why I’ve fought so hard against allowing the useful days of my boots to come to an end. Perhaps it is because despite having both three other pairs in the years since, no other pair has ever fit or worn quite as well. Perhaps it is nostalgic; because the boots are linked to special memories, travels, and experiences. Perhaps it is because I’m cheap, and tried of buying a new pair only to be disappointed. Perhaps I fear if not these boots, then never any other boots…
Maybe it’s some of all of the above. It’s hard to let go of the outer form that has held me, sustained me, and helped me travel so far. But it’s become clear, their days are numbered, and I had better give attention to what is next. I can’t patch or fix these boots any more; so in the very near future, I’ll need to set them aside to try something new.
(Oh, and by the way, I’ve worn the United Methodist Church since infancy. It has fit me well. I love its Wesleyan heritage, breadth of theology, intention of inclusivity. But it has worn. It’s been restructured and re-imagined, but there are breaches today no patching will fix…)