Take off your sandals

Publish date 14-03-2023

by Alberto Brigato

For a pastor in Bible times, taking off his sandals is like asking us to take off the wheels of a car and drive anyway! Even now, if we take off our shoes, we should be careful where we put our feet; we would go more slowly to see what or who we are stepping on, inevitably we would slow down, we would become more aware, more attentive and even curious and – perhaps – we would change our pace.

This is what happened to Moses, it changed the step of him, the step of a man, determined, capable and sure, in his sandals, to a step of God, delicate, careful and chosen . It is as if God had said to him: «Up to here you have walked alone, with your own strength, with your sandals. Now take them off, walk my way, let me show you where, how and when to place the soles of your feet."

A similar situation probably happened for my first real encounter with God and I remember it very well: it was a Tuesday evening before the prayer meeting, I no longer remember for what, but I was re-taken by Ernesto and Rosanna. I found myself very sad, alone, behind the stage of the ex-auditorium. At that moment Rosanna passed by and said to me: «Don't worry, it's a common problem in all of us, we just have to stop thinking we can do everything by ourselves and let God work in us, put ourselves aside so that he is always the one guide our steps".
Those words, simple and true, so true that they didn't need explanations, so true as to hurt, especially pride, they began to dig, to slowly "untie" the laces of my sandals, to give direction to my steps .

Taking off your sandals is a bit like undressing, showing yourself naked, for what you really are, beyond the labels, the work we do, beyond one's way of acting. Walking barefoot every day, feeling the earth we tread on, the hot asphalt and the grass of the “Giardino dei Popoli”, the slippery mosaic of the fish tank and the sharp cobblestones; experience makes feet stronger even if new wounds add to the old ones... I would even say that without laces you can breathe better.

There was a period in which I was really caught in a noose, that of work, which got a bit twisted around everything. A noose that binds your hands and feet and you find yourself motionless, especially in a fraternity that works together, in a workplace that is also your home, with colleagues who are also your brothers and sisters. I came to think that «I am the work»: I was the kitchen, for better or for worse. I well remember the moment I was untied from that snare. Another encounter with God: on the 4th floor of the Hospitality, during a moment of silence during the retreat, those words: "I am not the kitchen", "I am not the work" gave new life to my steps, which have become new steps to my life of fraternity.
This summer, in Brazil, I was re-reading the life of Saint Therese in Portuguese, and I realized once again how liberating her vision of her desires is, which completely overturns acceptance, transforming it into desire . I explain it badly, but if I want something, even the noblest, but this doesn't happen, I will be disappointed; if instead I welcome everything that comes from God as the desired thing, I will be happy to receive it, whatever it is.
And the prayer "Lord, your will be done, give us the grace to recognize it and the strength to carry it out" paved the way for another encounter with God, an encounter full of freedom, of peace that was not requested but welcomed, of desire to walk barefoot, to see the spectacle that awaits us, to see the fire of a bush that never burns out.

Inside the Arsenale della Speranza, there are very few laces, the national shoe of Brazil is the chinelo, our flip-flops, and it is not only an economic question but a cultural one.
Free, comfortable, without laces, we face life barefoot, direct and transparent, simple because we have not lost contact with the earth, indeed, if we can, we even remove the chinelo.
When I think about how much professional soccer shoes cost and how many street men do "crazy numbers" with bare feet, I feel like laughing... and yet the meeting with the High teaches us just this, we have to remove something, strip ourselves of our structures and walk barefoot.

Alberto Brigato
NP December 2022

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