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Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Parable of the New Shoes


I love claymation and I Love a good English accent. Years ago, before the Wallace and Gromit enterprise was as renowned as it is now, there was a special showing of one of their films in Salt Lake County. It was a perfect double date for that hottie I would end up marrying and the fellow who would come to be our best man. Because the movie wasn’t widely distributed in the United States we had the pleasure of driving into town to see it in an antiquated theater, complete with red velvet curtains and light bulb trimmed marquee.



We parked and walked down the wide sidewalks, joking and laughing in the late afternoon sun. I can’t explain what I was feeling as we walked toward the theater other than to say I felt normal. I didn’t feel special in the least, only happy to be with my companions. That is until we reached the threshold of the theater. I stepped through the doorway into the fine trimmed lobby and something left me. I didn’t make it three steps into the room before I stopped and looked around. It was as if I’d been clothed and I was now exposed.


With my brow knit in frustration I stepped back outside. I felt secure again, protected, and wrapped in comfort. Though I hadn’t noticed feeling that way before I entered the theater, I knew that somehow I had always felt that way. I bit my lip, staring at my husband who was waiting for me inside. I gingerly stepped over the threshold, feeling again exposed and alone. Testing to see if I was actually crazy I did a little dance back and forth across the threshold. My husband sighed heavily and closed his eyes, patiently extending his hand for me to come to him. I was embarrassing him. However, I learned what I wanted to know. On the outside of the threshold I felt comfort and security. On the inside of the threshold I felt exposed and vulnerable.


As we walked deeper into the theater I looked behind me at the light coming from the entrance. I knew what had left me when I stepped inside. The Holy Ghost was waiting out there for me. He wouldn’t come in. The message was clear. If I went in, I went in alone. I explained to my husband the Holy Ghost wouldn’t come in and asked what he thought was wrong, but he only shrugged, not experiencing what I was. I watched the movie, glancing around often, worried about what kind of a place I’d entered that He would not come into. I couldn’t see anything untoward and tried to focus on the toothy grinned characters.


The most frightening thing about the theater was using the ladies room. It was clean and nice but the dim hallway was long and I was alone. All alone. More alone than I had ever felt before. I was unprotected and exposed.


As we passed the ticket counter on our way out my husband stopped me and pointed to videos behind the counter. There for rent was an amazingly large collection of pornography. Mystery solved. As soon as I was on the other side of the threshold I felt the Holy Ghost with me again and I basked in the feeling of it, reveling in the security and warmth. Once we were alone in the car I expressed my amazement that I’d never noticed the Holy Ghost was with me until He was so obviously gone. I talked to my husband about my conversion and how strongly I felt the Holy Ghost when I was first coming to church. When had I stopped noticing the Holy Ghost? How could anyone stop noticing that sublime feeling?


There are moments in a dating relationship that mark a man as marriage material and here is one of those moments. He told me about his mission. At the beginning of his mission he was on fire with the Holy Ghost, feeling lifted and inspired at every turn. He was excited about the work he was doing and shone with the glow of that excitement. Sometime late in his mission that feeling ebbed for him and he became frustrated, remembering how constant the feeling had always been, he wondered if he was doing something wrong because it wasn’t there anymore.


His wise companion then shared with him the parable of the new shoe. I will be sharing this parable for the rest of my life. When you buy new shoes and wear them the first day, or even the first few days you are very aware of them. They aren’t worn in. The contours of the shoe are new to you. You step down and a message is sent to your brain that something’s different. For a few days you’re thinking of your feet when you walk. But in no time at all, the shoes feel right on your feet and you think of them only when you put them on in the morning and take them off at night.


Feeling the Holy Ghost is like that pair of shoes. When at first you feel Him with you, the feeling is marked as different than your ordinary awareness. At times His presence is stronger, particularly when we’re learning a new truth or in the presence of a great good. However, so long as we stay worthy He’s there silently beside us, completely unnoticed until we leave His side. For He will never leave us. It is always us who chose to leave Him. He will wait patiently for us on the other side of the thresholds of life, constant and true.


In hindsight I erred by entering the building. His companionship is more valuable than entertainment. The price of having Him not with me was too high. And in the end I own many, if not all, of the Wallace and Gromit claymations anyway. We watch them in our home and I feel comfortable, warm and safe. I look around sometimes during the movies and smile, knowing the Holy Ghost, though unseen, is there with us. I wonder if He likes claymation as much as I do.