Many years in the infantry taught me a great deal but perhaps the most important lesson was how to look after my feet. An infantry soldier doesn't get far if his feet aren't in good condition and in order to keep them right, boots are the most important factor.
Here again, the military taught me how to keep my boots in good order.
When I first joined the Army in 1967 we were issued with two pairs, one for work and one for parades.
The work boots were the important ones, the ones we did all our runs in, the ones we did the obstacle course in, the ones we wore for PT, to the rifle range, to the kitchen when we had mess duties, the ones we marched 20 miles (32km) in overnight in full kit before we could wear the parade boots to finally march out, and they were the same boots our men had worn to World War II – old style, thick soled with hob-nails, laced and heavy. And they let the water in.
This effectively defeated the purpose of wearing boots in the first place. The solution, of course, was to wax and seal them against water and later, when winter arrived in Southern NSW, to keep the cold out. Following the initial training and with much more resilient feet, we were issued with a new pair of Dunlop boots known as GPs (General Purpose) – the best boots I have ever worn.
They were already sealed; they had soft leather uppers and a rubberised chemical resistant sole with a sheet of aluminium in the sole to protect from sharp objects such as 'punji pits' and other booby traps.
Walking with God
However, the purpose of this little story was not to promote the sales of said boot-making company, but to demonstrate a very important spiritual truth regarding our walk with God. We all know how frustrating it can be to leave the comfy confines of our warm house, on a winter morning to go trudging through the wet—or even frozen—grass only to find those shoes have betrayed you. Your feet are wet and cold.
Your shoes are no longer protecting your feet from the elements as you travel on your journey to the mailbox, the washing line, to feed the chooks or wherever it was you were going. The solution to this problem? Your shoes need to be better looked after; they need to be water-proofed with wax or in some way maintained so they retain their water-tight quality.
Much like Christian in John Bunyan's classic The Pilgrim's Progress, we are all on a long, and at times challenging spiritual journey from the time we are saved to the time we are with the Lord in eternity. The journey can become uncomfortable if we don't maintain and water-proof the 'boots' of our Christian faith.
So what are the 'boots' of our faith?
According to Ephesians chapter 6, verse 15, our 'shoes' are the Gospel of peace and they are an important part of our spiritual armour along with the Gospel message we were endowed with when saved. It is this Gospel which protects us from the chilling effect the world's thought patterns have on our faith. It is this Gospel or 'good news'which encourages us on our journey; it is a Gospel of peace—it 'keeps our feet warm' as it were.
However, new boots eventually wear out or lose their water-tight qualities over time if not fully maintained – and so does the Gospel message. As we become familiar with the message, we can lose the wonder, the intensity of The Cross and what Jesus did for us. As horrible as it may sound, have we found ourselves with a 'leaky' Gospel due to insufficient maintenance? I know I have.
How can we avoid becoming overly familiar with the Gospel?
More importantly, how do we maintain this Gospel so it remains powerful and active in our spiritual walk as a witness to others? It is only by God's revelation and empowerment to act that the Gospel can become fully activated and dynamic in our lives.
By seeking the God of all Creation for the answers and personal application to the mysteries which are buried in the Gospel, we will never lose the wonder for what Christ did for us on The Cross.
Not only will our 'shoes' protect us from the cold and wet fallacies tormenting our foundational beliefs regarding the Gospel as we trudge through the frigid winters of our journey, but our 'shoes of the gospel of peace' will also be a witness to those who have not heard...
"As it is written: 'How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things,'" (Romans chapter 10, verse 15).
John Skinner served in Vietnam, then the Tasmanian Police before taking up the position of CEO of the Australian Rough Riders Association (professional rodeo in Warwick Qld). Before retirement to his farm, he was a photo-journalist for 25 years. He is married with .... children and grand children.
John Skinner's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/john-skinner.html