by Tim Patterson
PLYMOUTH, MI – I had to have been very young, but the memory is still quite vivid and clear today. I was probably three or four years old when my father and I were walking down the streets of Kermit, Texas. I still recall the wooden sidewalks that lined the storefronts, and the sounds they emitted as we shuffled along.
The spaces between the boards revealed the eerie darkness that lay below. I was sure they contained marauding monsters just waiting for me to slip through one of the cracks, or for one of them to reach up and pull me under. For a three year old this was a real and dangerous certainty. The only security I had was my chubby little hand wrapped around my father's mammoth index finger.
With my memory, I can still feel and see the size and sense of that one digit. As I look at my hands and fingers now, I can only imagine how small they must have been as they clung to this singular security.
The general store that we entered had an old screen door, braced across the middle with a metal screen guard that advertised Baird’s Bread. I had no idea how to read the words displayed, but I recognized the smiling little girl with a slice of the soft white manna in her hand.
A long spongy spring slammed the door behind us as we entered this marvel of modern merchandise. A long counter sat just to our left and on top, and within it contained the very necessities of life; clothing, sundries, threads, pocket knives, pots & pans, tools and food all lined the shelves and hung from the walls. The strange odor of things old and new hung in the air as well. Sacks of animal feed and planting seed added to the cacophony of scents that assaulted my olfactory senses.
One of my favorites sights was the mammoth block of cheese that sat waiting to be cut in perfect proportions by the mechanical slicer that pivoted from side to side with the watchful motion of the proprietor. My eyes would stay fixated on that golden block until the owner would remove a small sliver, and hand it to me on a piece of white butcher paper. My mouth waters even now at the thought of that moist morsel being laid on my lips, golden goodness and tasty memories.
Yet, the vision that is most present in my memory is that of a shelf that from my perspective must have been more than a hundred feet tall. It was perched at the very top of a row of the most beautiful and colorful western boots this side of the Pecos. They all were handcrafted of the finest leathers by artisans from Mexico.
The ones I longed to be able to wear were composed of a black foot with the upper part of the boot being deep red and white in color. Stitched within those colors was the most beautiful eagle I had ever seen. It seemed as though it was ready to take flight at any moment.
I told my father that those were the ones that I wanted, and that one day I would be big enough to wear them. All he needed to do was purchase them now. I was sure it would not be many days before they would fit perfectly.
He did purchase them and all that time I thought they were for me. As far as I was concerned, my dad was just taking care of them until I was able to put them on.
There are photographs of me as a little boy wearing those boots with the tops going all the way up to my hip. Some of the fondest memories of my dad that remain in my limited and fading memory have within them the vision of him in those very same boots.
I thought they were my boots to fill. I know it was childish, but that was the way I felt. A child. Those boots were far too big for me, yet periodically, I would slip into them and pretend.
By the time I could wear those beauties they were well worn and my desire for that style had diminished. It was not until many years later, I realized I would never be able to fill my father’s boots, and that my heavenly Father has given me my own boots to fill.
Watching my dad and my Father have taught me that one's boots are something that you grow into and by the time they really fit, they are usually worn out. It is then we realize that we could never fill anyone else’s boots, and no one can fill ours.
God has given each of us our own life to live. We can learn from the experiences of others and they can have an enormous impact on us, but we are still responsible for our own actions and outcome.
Too many individuals desire to be someone else. To long for the place and position that another occupies is ludicrous and unrealistic. Those are not your boots and they will never fit.
As a young pastor or new church planter, it may be enticing to mimic the ministry or even the mannerisms and style of another pastor or leader, but the results will not be what you expect. The power and presence of God will be woefully absent, and any positive results will be suspect. In no way does that mean you should not follow the directives and examples of a mentor or coach, but their guidance must be fleshed out in the real you.
You have your own boots. Fill ‘em up. Be who God made YOU to be.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tim Patterson is Executive Director/Treasurer of the Baptist State Convention of Michigan. Elected unanimously in May of 2015, Patterson formerly served for 9 years as pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla. He also served as trustee chair and national mobilizer for the North American Mission Board.