Strong Ankles



Hiking in flip flops can be dangerous. In fact, I had a conversation with my neighbor about this topic. I told her I hike in flip flops. She wasn’t surprised, but mentioned her husband, a fireman, has been on many rescue missions on Camelback Mountain for flip flop wearing hikers.

Consider this post a warning. Build proper ankle strength and establish balance techniques prior to trekking up a rocky mountain like Camelback in flip flops. Oh, there is more to this warning – choose flip flops with proper fabric in the straps and rubber on the soles if you hope to accomplish the task without incident.

As I continued my conversation with my neighbor. She was quick to be accepting of my odd footwear choice. She, as many in her generation believe, does not want to judge or force me to align to a specific standard of footwear. With that said, I told her the story of wearing heavy, bulky snow boots all winter season in Colorado. Flip flops were more than a symbol of freedom they actually “Set My Piggies Free.”

Today, my being able to hike without supportive footwear comes about from an escalation of strength and skill over many years. I developed strong ankles, balance, and agility trail running in North Carolina as a teenager.

Being a disciple of Jesus demands strength (2 Timothy 1:7). The good news it's not our strength. Our "strong ankles" come from the Spirit of God dwelling in us and guiding our every step - that is, if we let Him (Isaiah 11:2). To follow means to walk as they do - you know, like sheep following a shephard (John 10:1-21).

The problem however is not a matter of strength. We grieve the Spirit of God (Ephesians 4:30) because our hearts are, very often, divided. "Our ankles" are weak because we allow many distractions and false worship to steer us away from even hiking the trail at all (following Jesus). For others, they depend on the support of their "hiking boots." They can't choose "alternative footwear" because their "ankle strength" comes from spiritual leaders instead of the great Shepherd. They have weak faith without evidence of the power of God.
I went on to talk with my neighbor about the metaphor hiking in flip flops represented – freedom from religiosity. I mentioned we can learn about and follow Jesus intentionally. Hiking boots do not have to be the only choice for footwear. She could immediately relate to the heavy hiking boots aspect as she told me how her mother, a Mormon, continually pressures her to pass on the beliefs to her children. She said, "It feels like oppressive footwear."

Her mother’s approach was missing something vital – speaking the truth with love (Ephesians 4:15). Now, I’m not arguing against the truth of Mormonism here. I’m saying simply, her mother failed to share with her daughter: who God is, what His promises are for her, and that He cares about her, He desires for her to know Him personally, and be led by Him lovingly. She simply insisted her grandchildren wear hiking boots.

I offered that church is when two or more are gathered in Jesus’ name to worship Him. Growing in the knowledge of His character and promises could take place sitting on chairs in our garage. I observed her body relax and soften as she began to see there might be another way to learn about God other than going to church. My neighbor, by the way, is “unchurched.” That is to mean, she literally did not grow up going to church as a child. And she, like I was, knows almost nothing about Jesus.

Just as my running the moist, slippery trails of North Carolina strengthened my ankles and gave me agility in uncertain terrain, spiritual growth requires our opening the pages of the Bible and learning. But, we talked about how intimidating that is. And for many, as with my neighbor, going to church is not an option – for whatever reason (I will leave this topic for researchers and scholars), it feels like oppressive hiking boots to them.

So, for me, flip flops represent freedom. Whether on the trail or in my garage, I can worship. Growing in grace does not have to happen in a church building just on Sunday. Church happens between neighbors, with my hair dresser, in conversations with my web designer, and even with random hiking friends. Church is not where we go but, WHO we go toward - you do however, have to get on the trail of discipleship - whatever footwear you choose to wear.

So, there is an alternative (not a replacement) to hiking boots, if we will just “Set Our Piggies Free.”

If you would like to learn more about how to experience God in your everyday life read The WHEE Factor by Edy Sutherland. Visit http://www.thewheefactor.com/ to learn more about the book.