by Donna Berger

Recently I was on my morning walk, when I noticed a woman up ahead of me wearing jogging clothes but walking in a pair of dress sandals. As I closed the gap between us, I wondered about the unusual combination. Unless you are headed down to the beach, the morning walkers and joggers mostly wear running shoes. Occasionally, you may see a pair of hiking sandals, but not a thin-soled pair of fancy sandals. As I caught up to her, I said, “Good Morning,” to which she replied, “Good morning, isn’t it a beautiful day?” After exchanging a few more comments about the weather, my curiosity got the better of me and I said, “you are brave to walk in your sandals,” to which she replied, “you can’t imagine what a blessing these sandals are.” Then she told me her story.

She drives a long way to walk the beach each day and pray. That day she got out of her car and began her walk, when the sole of one of her running shoes broke off. There was no way she could walk in the broken shoe and she headed back to her car, disappointed and feeling defeated.  But when she got to her car she noticed those sandals on the back seat. She was surprised as she didn’t remember ever leaving them in the car but was overjoyed that she would still be able to walk that day. Perhaps the walk would be slower than usual, and maybe not as far but she was blessed in her time with the Lord.

There were a number of lessons for me in this brief exchange. “Don’t jump to conclusions – there may be a perfectly good explanation for what you are seeing” (Proverbs 25:8), or from Luke 6:37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” (It is important here to note that Jesus is calling for our unconditional love of others, not unconditional approval of things that should not be approved of.) Jesus doesn’t want us to think the worst of people or only view them in the light of their faults. We can view the lives of others as long as it is through the same lens which we view ourselves, in a spirit of fairness. Honestly, I don’t think I was judging fairly when I first saw this woman. I figured she was an uninitiated tourist who didn’t have a clue as to how hot and difficult that walk would be on a mid-summer day in south Florida.

Another lesson in this encounter which is similar to the first one is best described by the old idiom, “don’t judge a book by its cover.” In life there are people, places, events and even things that can bring unexpected beauty and joy. This person and event certainly brought me unexpected joy that day. I was so encouraged by the outward example of perseverance in her faith. She was willing to endure the discomfort of walking in those sandals to spend time in prayer with the Lord. What an inspiration! It was also wonderfully gratifying to spend a few minutes speaking with a complete stranger who shared the same love of the Lord. A chance encounter really made these words come alive for me that day, “one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord of all….”

May life for all of us be filled with chance encounters that are filled with the Lord’s grace and that bring us great joy and encouragement.

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