Early one spring morning, my daughter Sarah noticed our neighbor at work in his garden. "Mom," she asked, "Can I go help?"
"Absolutely," I answered. Sarah, my oldest daughter and exact middle child (two older brothers, two younger sisters), is easy-going, capable, willing, helpful, and generous. She enjoys the outdoors, doesn't mind hard work, and isn't afraid of a little dirt.
On her way out the door, Sarah blew me a kiss, grabbed her water bottle from the fridge and her work gloves from the garage, and ran down the hill to our neighbor's garden, where they worked side by side all morning. About noon, I rang the old ship's bell outside our back door to call my daughter home for lunch. Before long I saw her long blond ponytail swinging in the sun as she crested the hill then her feet appeared - two rich black, well-composted, freshly tilled clods of early spring mud. I started to smile then gasped as four bright white, plastic coated shoelace ends caught my eye. My daughter had just spent the entire morning roto-tilling in brand new, white leather tennis shoes!
I stood rooted to the deck, incoherent thoughts swirling through my brain demanding to be spoken. "What were you thinking?" I wanted to shout straight across the yard and right into my daughter's twelve year old ears. "Never in a hundred million years will those shoes EVER be white again!"
"A hundred million years?" a voice calmly questioned at the back of my mind.
"Those are brand new tennis shoes!" I shot back.
"Yes," the voice returned. "Now look at your daughter."
"Not at her shoes, at her face."
In frustration, I tore my eyes away from Sarah's mud soaked shoes and glued them to her face, and my breath caught in my throat. "Oh!" My daughter was radiant; dirty, but beaming, her blue eyes shining. "Father, forgive me," I prayed. "I nearly missed You in this moment, focused more on a little dirt than on Your Hand at work in my daughter's life, so consumed with the finite, the earthly, a child's mistake, that I nearly missed the eternal, the important, the infinite, You. How could I care more about temporary, man-made, inconsequential material objects than about my daughter's soul?
Ouch! "Lord, I don't want to miss You in these moments, missing the abundant life You offer, because I settle for the world instead of seeking first Your Kingdom. In Your Kingdom, Sarah's mistake isn't costly. In Your Kingdom, she chose well, because she chose to love her neighbor as herself, pouring out her time and energy to help another, ultimately choosing You. Sarah's shoes may be dirty, but her soul is shining, and in her simple, selfless act of kindness, Your love once more pierced the darkness of this fallen world, infusing it with hope. Thank you for the unexpected blessing of my daughter's dirty shoes, for stopping me in the moment, opening my eyes to see, my ears to hear, and my soul to see this moment through Your eternal perspective. What a gift! Amen."
Cindee Snider Re lives in Sussex, WI with her husband, their five children, two cats, and two Shichon puppies. She enjoys quiet evenings, long walks, good books, homeschooling her kids, and lots of good, strong, hot, black tea.