Green Shoes

By

I’ve spent a lot of time lately feeling unwanted, unknown, and unloved in general. I suspect a lot of other singles deal with such feelings and I have to remind myself often that I’m not the only person that feels and fears these things. Usually it’s an annoying tickle in my mind that nags at me, reminds me that when I get home no one’s going to care how my day was, no one’s going to be around the house to talk to, no one’s going to care whether or not I have a good night.

But for the past week, the usual empty echo of singleness has been magnified. I’ve just moved into a new town and on top of all those other struggles, I feel out of place, awkward, and often plain useless. I wrestle with feeling abandoned sometimes by friends and often by God. I sat down to write this evening, wanting to express some of that struggle, and was interrupted in the middle of it because I wore my green shoes.

As I sat in Starbucks, minding my own business and looking for some inspiration in Buechner’s Whistling in the Dark, a young man approached me, told me his name was Monday, and asked for a moment of my time. He was nicely dressed and groomed and very polite but as soon as he begged my pardon, I knew what he was up to. He was a proselytizer. Ugh. There needs to be a better word for these people, something meatier, something like ‘busker’, after all isn’t this the spiritual equivalent of busking? Whatever you call them, they get on my nerves.

On one level, I’m glad they’re out there. I’m sure there’s good that comes of their effort and I’m always polite when they approach me but my point of irritation begins when I tell them that that yes, as a matter of fact I will go to heaven if I die tonight and I have accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior and that doesn’t satisfy them. They persist as if my confession can’t be taken at face value. This drives me nuts.

I will admit however that there is another part of me that secretly admires these people for engaging in a zealous sort of evangelism that I think any of the apostles would have cheered about. I especially admire those street corner preachers that are mad as hatters and stand on their boxes all day shouting the gospel (or their version of it) to the masses. Isn’t that, or something very like it, what the prophets of old did?

So there I sat, and there stood Monday, both of us knowing how awkward the other felt. Then he said something that threw me. “I’m on a treasure hunt. Do you mind if I sit down and ask you a few questions?” Despite my irritation at the interruption, I smiled and assured him that he was welcome to ask. He sat opposite me, placed a book on the table, and opened it. Oh great, I thought, he’s going to start quoting scripture at me. He didn’t. The book wasn’t a bible, it was a journal of sorts. He had the date written at the top of the page and listed below it a small jumble of words that I couldn’t read.

“I’m on a treasure hunt,” he said. “I ask the Lord to give me clues and I write them down then go out to look for the treasure.”

Alllllrighty then! At this point, it’s all I can do to keep from laughing and rolling my eyes. I’m in pure patronization mode. “So what clues can I help you with,” I ask.

“The first thing I wrote down today before I walked in here was ‘green shoes’ and I see that you’re wearing green shoes.”

I was, and agreed with him that it was so. Then he read off a few more of his clues.

“Does the name ‘Alex’ mean anything to you?” he asked. It didn’t but this was getting more entertaining by the minute. He continued scanning his list of clues, occasionally asking me about one or another until we got to the end and determined that none of the rest of his clues had anything to do with me.

Monday scratched his head and said, “I guess it’s just the green shoes then.” He closed his book and apologized for having taken up my time. Then he said something that caught me completely off my guard. “God wanted me to let you know that you are a great treasure and he loves you very much.” The genuine way in which he said it, the lack of agenda, the humility with which he spoke, the undeniable timeliness of the message, it all converged on me so thickly it was dizzying. I was dumbfounded, I couldn’t speak, I could scarcely breathe, and it was all I could do to hold back tears.

Not five minutes earlier, I had been struggling to make some sense of the loneliness and anger I was feeling. I felt unloved, unknown, useless and abandoned. Then, in walked a stranger who sat down and told me I was a “great treasure.”

“Do you know Jesus?” he asked me and I told him that I did. “Thank you for your time, brother.” He offered his hand, I shook it, and he walked out.

Today the Creator of life took time to reassure me that I’m not alone, that I am loved, that I have not only value, but great value. Who am I to argue. Thanks for noticing my shoes, Monday, and may God bless your treasure hunt.

Pete Peterson is the author of the Revolutionary War adventure The Fiddler’s Gun and its sequel Fiddler’s Green. Among the many strange things he’s been in life are the following: U.S Marine air traffic controller, television editor, art teacher and boatwright at the Florida Sheriffs Boys Ranch, and progenitor of the mysterious Budge-Nuzzard. He lives in Nashville with his wife, Jennifer, where he's the Executive Director of the Rabbit Room and Managing Editor of Rabbit Room Press.


32 Comments

  1. Matt Phang

    Thank You for the nice article. I do feel the same way at times..feeling lonely and abandoned…guess indeed there’s alot of people out there feeling the same way like i do…
    Sometimes I guess when we open our hearts and our mind’s eyes, we’ll see God’s beauty and affection in unexpected ways. He surprised us sometimes. And he moves in mysterious ways.

  2. easton crow

    Pete- THanks for your post. These are feelings I am just learning to deal with as I learn how to be single for the first time in a decade. I’m sort of dreading it.
    Loren- The certain Chesterton novel is one of my favorites. There is a wonderful free audio version of it at http://www.librivox.org.

  3. Ron Block

    @ronblock

    Pete,

    That’s the beauty of the prophetic gift, and the beauty of those who hear from God and then are obedient in faith to speak it out.

  4. Stacy Grubb

    Pete,

    One of the most altogether beautiful aspects of your story is the fact that, what at first seemed like a random encounter, turned out to be something quite specific to you and what you needed. For everything to come together, a series of certain events had to occur. You had to wake up that morning and decide to wear your green shoes. Monday had to wake up and feel inspired by green shoes. You had to be lonely. Monday had to be friendly. You both had to need a caffeine fix. And there you had to sit in your green shoes. You could’ve easily swatted Monday away and missed the message that God was trying to give you. Monday could’ve easily been too intimidated to approach a stranger and told God, “No,” on delivering that message. But God chose him and God chose you and right there in Starbucks, He reminded you of His awesomeness. I think we often have this idea of God in the sky and us on planet Earth. Orchestrated encounters in coffee shops are just the type of reminders that God is our ever-present, always available comfort. It’s also proof that, despite what Brooks and Dunn may sing about, God is never too busy to take care of our every need, including (maybe especially) the emotional ones.

    Stacy

  5. James Glass

    God does work in mysterious ways! Thank you for sharing some of the most powerful moments in your life. It is great when I can come here to the Rabbit Room, read from people pouring out their true feelings, and be able to relate to some of what I read. Mr. Pete, know that I have been praying for you, that you will be able to adjust to your new way of living and that you will be able to make the most out of every day of your life. Good luck wherever the road may take you!

  6. jenny

    Stacy,
    You’re right, it’s not a coincidence that this happened. Sometimes if we’re not obedient to what the Lord speaks to our hearts to do, then think of the outcome..there would have been no conversation that day at the coffee shop, Pete would have felt even more lonely and alone and Monday would still be in search of Alex w/the Green shoes!
    I love how the Lord works in the most subtle ways, if we let him and if we’re obedient to his spirit.
    A friend of mine and I were talking recently and she and I were comparing our mothering stories, when she told me how she felt like her prayer life wasn’t where it needed to be. I agreed, mine prob. wasn’t either. But then, in her admission, she gave me something that I *knew* was meant for me, she said, “I pray, but then I don’t take the time to listen, to listen for God’s response, his answer, for him to speak to me”.
    I so often read my devotions, pray and then never really sit to listen b/c so many times I ask the Lord to speak to me, to validate what *I* think/how *I* feel…and then don’t wait to hear his response.
    Thanks for the reminder to be obedient and to listen..Pete.

  7. Peter B

    Loren, that’s exactly where I went when I heard this 🙂 Funny how that’s the only Chesterton I’ve read to date…

    Pete, thanks for the reminder to be open to the Lord’s leading. It’s so easy for us to be smug and secure in our cynicism; I wonder how much it’s cost me.

  8. Morgan

    I usually just read the first few lines of the Rabbit Room posts on my feed reader, but even the first few lines were so right where I have been recently, I had to read the rest. I moved to Ohio from my home state of Florida almost a year ago, and in that time I have worked hard to make friends through my graduate program and through my church, but being away from my established friends for so long has truly worn away at me. I only have one sibling, my twin sister, and I haven’t seen her since she helped me move here. Easter is a time I traditionally spend with my best friends, and I went to Easter services alone this year. I don’t think I even realized how lonely I had become until recently, and sometimes it is really hard to remember that ultimately it is a sign that I was created for union. I send out monthly e-mails to my friends and this month I decided to go all out and tell the truth about this, and I was amazed at the great variety of friends–friends on mission with other Christians, married, with kids, near friends, etc–said they were lonely too. It just really reminded me that God alone satisfies, and how difficult that is to live out sometimes (most of the time?)

    And without that connection, it is easy to forget I am treasured. I liked this story, and I’m glad to know I’m still not alone.

  9. Tony Heringer

    Pete…great story man. It reminded me of Hebrews 13:2 “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.” I said a prayer for you and your current situation. I know others in the Room have or will be doing the same.

  10. Jonathan Gregory

    Pete,

    Your opening lines connected with that vague itch of loneliness that is always there, so I kept reading; I wanted to feel sad and sorry for myself for awhile. Well, you ruined that.

    As I finished reading I thought of Isaiah 55–Come everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come buy and eat! … Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear and come to me; hear, that your soul may live.” This is rich news! So much life, so much love spread at the table. Even when the recipe calls for the collision of green shoes and Monday. A recipe created at the foundation of the world.

  11. Ginny

    What a beautiful story. I had dinner with my son tonight. He has a new job and says that it feels as if he has moved to a new town. He felt kind of useless and unsure of the future today. As his mom, I am praying that someone will send him this message- he so needs to know this-that he is a great treasure and God loves him very much…I hope he went home knowing that tonight. Thank you for sharing this, Pete, hope all will go well for you in your new surroundings.

  12. Chris

    Good story. I love how God speaks to us.My comment is in regards to being married or single. I have been happily married for over twenty years; and my wife and I very much love one another. Marriage however, sometimes isnt quite as glamorous as it may seem. While my wife does love me, and she usually will listen to me talk about my day with apparent interest; sometimes that interest isnt terribly genuine I’m afraid. The same goes for my interest in her day sometimes unfortunately. Maybe its our natural human tendency towards being self absorbed, but were not always the selfless spouse supporters we should be. Dont get me wrong, I prefer marriage to being single; yet even the best of marriages is not always the fairy tale we might imagine it to be.

  13. Peter B

    I can echo Chris’ comment about marriage; I know I certainly came into it with some ill-informed, ill-thought-out ideas. If only somebody would have set me straight beforehand…

    God is sovereign and good, however, and his purpose continues to unfold through this crazy life.

  14. Michael Anthony Curan

    i’m 22 and had a girlfriend but dumped me a week ago because she realized she was not yet gettin’ over with her ex. she still loves him even though he just deserted her and is now happy with a new girlfriend.

    iit makes me so sad and lonely and made me cry for weeks and even now because i love her so much.

    but i have to let her go even though she’s still in my prayers. I wanted to make friends with her but she cut off every possible ways of communicating with her.

    She hates me now for loving her because she said she see herself in me back when she was head over heels inlove with her ex and it hurts her watching me loving her and caring for her,

    right now i just miss her.

    i hope God would console me too that i am not alone in this world of hurt.

    that new single by James Otto called For You really relates to my situation now.

    I might let her go yet its hard to unlove her..

  15. Stacy Grubb

    I really related to Chris’s thoughts, as well. I wasn’t yet 18 when I got married, so I’ve spent my entire adult life in a marriage. I really didn’t have any concrete ideas going into it about what I thought it would be like because I just hadn’t spent a lot of time thinking about it. But I did learn throughout the years that some of my friends envied me, taking for granted that I never had a lonely night or feelings of isolation. Just the same as you can be a crowded room and feel alone, you can share your life with someone and still feel like the Lone Ranger.

    And that brings me to Morgan’s thoughts about how God alone can fill us completely. Certainly He gives us companions – spouses, family, friends – but we can be surrounded by those people and still feel misunderstood, overlooked, uncared about, etc. One reason is because, no matter how long a person has known you, how many tears, laughs, experiences you’ve shared, the only One who has truly been in your shoes is God. When I hurt or when I’m afraid, I remember His promise that I won’t feel anything that He has never felt. He and He alone has been in my shoes. He and He alone cares for and loves me unconditionally. He and He alone puts me above Himself without a moment’s hesitation. He and He alone never gets tired of having me around.

    Stacy

  16. becky

    Good thoughts, Stacy.

    Being 46 and still single was never part of my plan. I had the same dreams of cottages with white picket fences that most women have at some time or another. But I don’t think anyone’s life turns out the way they expected. We all have to look around at where we are, and make the most of what God has given us.

    Singleness has big advantages. I never have to go fishing, or watch martial arts movies. I don’t have to consider someone else’s opinion when I make decisions. I can decide how to spend my time and money. I get the whole bed to myself. Pete was able to pack up and move, and ditch anything that didn’t fit in the pick-up (something that I doubt would ever happen with a wife!). And I could go on.

    One thing I have noticed is that, often, the things that are advantages are also the disadvantages. I get to make the decisions alone, but I HAVE TO make the decisions alone. I have to choose what to do with my 401K plan. I am a designer, not a financial consultant. I have to decide when it’s time to get new tires for my car, or change jobs. I can, and do, ask for advice from others I respect. But it’s not the same as sharing the decision with another human being who is in the boat with you and will also live with the consequences of the decision.

    My dad is a great one for “wise sayings”, and here is one of his: Better to be single than wish that you were.

    Even though it can be lonely being single, and the future can be intimidating, I have been blessed with a good life. I have time to do things in the church. I have an amazing niece and nephews who think I’m the cat’s meow. I am the bride of a husband who will always love me more than his own life, will always be faithful to me, will always put my good before his own, who always “gets” me. Not many women who are married can say that.

  17. Chris P

    I really appreciated this. Those are some of the hardest things for me to believe, and it is honestly a comfort to hear that story and know that I’m not alone in that struggle.

  18. c.Lates

    Pete,

    In your last post you told us that you’ve packed up everything you own that could fit in your pickup truck and have moved out–no home, no job. Nothing. So where are you going? What are you doing? I’ve been eagerly waiting to hear more of your adventures.

  19. Katie

    I have to agree with Ron (way up near the top) about people with the prophetic gift. I had never even met anyone who believed in such things until 3 years ago (college), and even though I’m in that place of loneliness and moving, and a singlness that has made me question my identity in Christ several times over, I would be utterly ruined if the kind of people who listen to God like that hadn’t been in my life.
    They’re weird, but I’m slowly getting weirder.
    I live and hope for the day when I’m as weird as Jesus.

  20. Andrea

    Wow, Pete.

    I’m sorry for your loneliness. Please understand that (as strange as this will sound) that you aren’t alone in it! Marriage is more like a magnifying glass than anything. It makes the good times better and the hard times worse. Joy is more complete because it’s shared, but loneliness is harsher because the person who is supposed to be its cure is just as selfish as you are.

    I’m sure that doesn’t help you feel better, and I can only thank God he sent you a personal message that did.

  21. josh

    Pete,

    i can’t believe how much your story sounds like mine right now. Coming home to an empty house every night after a long day really does mess with you after a while. When I hear the front door close behind me it’s like putting the exclamation point on the lonliness that soon sets in. All I want is somebody to be waiting for me when i get home, or to have somebody to wait on would be just as well. I long to have somebody to sit and talk to at the end of the day, to lay next to me in bed late at night. Even the tough times that are inevitable in marriage would preferable to nothing at all. It’s like when you buy a house, you know it’s gonna need tons of maintenance, tons of care, lots of attention, it’s gonna cost a lot, and it’s probably gonna eventually let you down somehow. But the good times outweigh the bad a million times over.

    So Pete, I know this probably doesn’t do a thing to ease your worries, but i guess this was more for me than anything else. But just know you’re not the only one. I’m about to move to a new place with no idea how i’ll make money to live on, no wife to lean on, no family anwhere close.

    But I am gonna buy a bike soon so maybe we can go on a road trip and pick up some wild and crazy biker chicks. (just jokes, just jokes)

  22. Terri Sutton

    Pete,
    It is amazing how your experience has now touched all of us. It gave me cold chills and immediately reminded me of the scripture my daughter gave to me the other day when I was at the end of my rope with my job. I can’t quote it word for word but in short he has plans for us that are only good. I am so happy that I get to share on how he is working in your life. My son told me about this site and I always go straight to your entries because i feel a real connection in your journey.

  23. Chris P

    After one of the hardest weeks of my life, and becoming so overwhelmed by a sense of isolation and worthlessness, i found myself coming back and reading this several times. It really is an encouragement. I would like nothing more now than to feel some sense of worth from Christ. I know it’s there, I have an academic understanding of it. But that isn’t enough. As I walk in what’s going on in my life and watch friends harm themselves, throw away any love that they receive, and struggle to find God in my life or in the situations I grow in the sense that relationships with people are not worth it, and that scares me because that’s not what I’ve seen from Christ. God did not give up on me after twenty years of doing whatever I could to spite Him, but i can’t handle a year of relational struggles. And as I grow to value others less I grow to value my self less, and ultimately all I’m doing is hurting someone that God really loves. I just don’t know how to believe in my worth or the worth of others when I am alone with no real family or friends.

  24. Pete Peterson

    @pete

    Chris,

    I hear you. I don’t know exactly what you are going through, but I know I’ve felt that way myself. Last week in church, the pastor said something that made a lot of sense to me. He said that when we feel anger or despair it is because we’ve placed our trust, our hope, in our own idols instead of in God. Our idols are whatever it is that’s drawing our eyes from him whether it be relationships with other people, career success, personal goals, or anything else, all those things are going to let us down sooner or later and if that’s where our hopes lie, we are going down with them. Our hope, our trust has to be in God, and God alone. I’m beginning to understand that some of the downfalls in life are God’s way of leading us to that truth.

    I know that might all sound like patronization from where you’re standing now, but I really believe it’s true and I know it’s helped me out of the same kind of place it sounds like you’re in. There are still times when I struggle, but I remind myself to place my trust and hopes in God often enough to help me through my days of unbelief.

    You’ll be in my prayers.

  25. Chris P

    Thanks Pete. It’s a truth that’s easy to hear and know in your head, but not fully grasp with your heart and soul. In the two short years since God captured my heart, I’m not sure I’ve worked past even half of the things that I go to before I look to God. I hope that this struggle will end in one of the Idols being cast out.
    Thanks for the response and the prayers

  26. Beth

    Thanks Pete for your response ot Chris. I just got “dumped”and agree that I needed ot go through that to learn that I was depending on a romantic relationship to get me through what I thought was hell. I needed to quit my job and move in faith to find another one ..No matter what, God is our ultimate support. He can send someone like Monday. Trust this. I often get really down because I am an only child and single at 30, not feeling like I have a successful means of employment…this story reminds me of how amazing God’s love can be.

  27. Larry

    Pete,

    This is my first time on this site and my first reading of your column. Both outstanding! Lonliness and isolation can be so debilitating and spares no one at one point or another in our lives. It sucks whether your are physically alone, or feeling that way hanging with your friends and family (as I sometimes do). Over time, I’ve begun to see it as a gentle reminder from God — more a question from Him actually — “Am I being as compassionate as I can be?” Showing compassion to another is the great equalizer and motivator from feelings of depression and anxiety — I’ve found anyway.

    And hey, you are a really talented writer. I work for a book publisher and am sure you get hit up all the time, but if there is anything I can do, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

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