These boots are made for walking

At car show on Friday.

At car show on Friday.

We bought Chandler a pair of cowboy boots on Saturday. We helped him pick them out amidst serious deliberation. It took over an hour. It could have taken all day — we didn’t care — we were with him and that’s all that mattered.

It is our first visit since sending him to a residential treatment center five states away, and we are savoring every minute of it. Large amounts of fear and apprehension were immediately swallowed up in long hugs and welcomed smiles.

We are in cowboy country, so cowboy boots are appropriate attire. They are required — at least some kind of boot — for horseback riding, which is part of the therapy program here: they learn to ride and care for a horse. This afternoon, I will go riding with him.

He’s been wearing a pair of boots one of the other kids here shared with him, but they are a size too big for him, so we decided, since he was going to be spending a lot of time with horses, this would be an important investment.

I tried on a few pair while he was deliberating, knowing that the shoes I brought were not appropriate for our riding experience today. As I did, I found myself getting excited, thinking how a new pair of cowboy boots would be great to take home from here — a piece of the country that is now becoming a part of Chandler that I could share in. However, I quickly remembered that we were not here to get me boots.

At dinner, a few blocks away from the boot store, the subject of what I would wear for horseback riding came up. I was just about to bring up that I was thinking about maybe getting some boots myself, when Chandler made it very clear what I would be wearing today. I would wear his boots — the ones he’s been wearing — size 12.

“But I’ll be swimming in them,” I said. “They are three sizes too big for me.” My argument didn’t phase him. When Chandler gets himself set on a path, there is no dissuading him. It’s a good quality that can be ill-used when the path is wrong, but when it’s right, it’s something to be trusted, and he will not be moved.

“Okay,” I finally acquiesced, realizing this was not a hill I wanted to die on. “I’ll borrow them while I ride,” I said, thinking it wouldn’t matter sitting in the saddle.

“No,” he said, vehemently opposed to my solution. He had something else in mind, and I needed to get it. “You have to walk in my shoes.” And as soon as he said it, I realized he was talking about much more that borrowing his boots. He was talking about seeing things from his perspective, and he is convinced that these particular boots are going to convey something of himself to me that I could not gain any other way. Size was of no consequence.

Suddenly I was glad to drop the idea of getting my own boots. I would have been walking my own path with my own pair of boots that have nothing to do with Chandler. I would have convinced myself that I was connecting with him in some way, when, in fact, I would have continued on in my isolation, where I have everything I need without becoming vulnerable to anyone or anything. Now I’m going to be swimming in Chandler’s boots, wearing blisters on my feet, and tripping over myself, and whatever else might happen. It won’t matter, because, for once, if only for a while, I’ll be walking in Chandler’s shoes.

I can’t wait. I’m going to wear them all day.

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18 Responses to These boots are made for walking

  1. Kevin Krabbenhoft says:

    I am laughing with tears. Thanks for sharing your journey as you talked yourself out of a pair of “new” boots for you. I am rarely that insightful without a nudge from my wife. We are cheering for both you and Chandler !

  2. Kevin Krabbenhoft says:

    This reminds when Jesus HAD to got through Samaria. John HAD to wear boots three sizes to big and not only that, he has prayerfully brought us along on this journey. Might we be changed the same way the disciples were changed that day in Samaria when Jesus stepped into the shoes of the Woman and the Well.

  3. gregory krejci says:

    God bless you, John. Chandler and my son have a lot in common. He lives on the street and most of the time his shoes are full of holes. He has been calling me lately to go hiking with him. I think I need to follow your lead. God bless.

  4. Have a great visit! May God bless this time together!

  5. Frank U says:

    I got a sense from a footnote of a few recent emails that something big was happening. To my shame I’ve been a bit overwhelmed with my own “boots” lately. Could you tell me John, how far back do I need to start reading to find out what’s been happening with your family?

  6. Praise and thanks to Jesus for the time you and Marti are having with Chandler!
    Once again your open hearts are helping others learn how to love!

  7. Mark Seguin says:

    God’s speed & blessings to you, Chandler & Marti and journey mercies for the trip home.

  8. shelley colyer says:

    Love the picture of Chandler! Cowboy boots will never look the same…and I will embrace my sons all the more! Boots on the ground….

  9. KaT H. says:

    You have a smart son! God Bless….

  10. TimC says:

    There is nothing so good for the inside of a man as the outside of a horse. ~John Lubbock, “Recreation,” The Use of Life, 1894

    It is not enough for a man to know how to ride; he must know how to fall. ~Mexican Proverb

    To build a relationship with an animal that could stomp you to death is mind-blowing. ~ TimC

    Have fun Chandler! Just wait until you learn to do a flying lead change.

  11. K. Thornton says:

    Thank you so much for sharing. How often I think I know what my children’s path feels like, when reality is- I don’t. Great insight, I needed to be awaken to.

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