This story is about that same little girl who always seemed to have two things on her mind. You might remember her from the times that she was trying to fly kites and understand love and so forth.
Well, she awoke one morning and put together her two-item agenda for the day. And the first thing she wanted to do was learn how to run and keep her rubber slippers on her feet.
You see, that was just something she’d never been able to do. At some point when running along, whether the ground was grassy or graveled or paved or something else, suddenly she’d be running with only one rubber slipper on one foot. The other would be somewhere else in the field, or the driveway, or wherever. It never failed — and she was determined to make that change.
The second thing she wanted to do that day was understand how Jesus had risen from the dead. It was around Easter time, after all, and she’d heard a lot about that.
Let it not be said that she was afraid of asking difficult questions!
So she and her friends went out to a nice grassy field, and they started running. They went hither and yon and up and down and back and forth and this way and that, and pretty much every time, there was at least one rubber slipper left behind.
Sometimes two. Or frequently two.
They tried different things. They tried putting their legs straight down, which didn’t help their speed or, as it turned out, prevent the other slipper from falling off. They tried clenching their toes in all sorts of different ways, but somehow they couldn’t maintain the grip all through their strides. They tried running with knees up and knees back; they tried running backwards and sideways; they tried swapping them from one foot to the other (because, after all, why not?).
None of it worked, or if it did, it slowed them down so much they might as well have been walking. At some point, a slipper would sail away as if it had something else it would rather do.
It was all quite disappointing.
So she went to find her grandparents, who usually had pretty good answers to difficult questions like this. They were together, so she hopped up before them and asked, “How do I keep my slippers on when I run?”
(It took the grandparents a little time to understand the question, which had taken them by surprise.)
Then they looked at each other for a second or two, before they looked back at their granddaughter and confessed, “We don’t know. If there is a way to keep them on when you’re running, we never found it.”
“In fact,” they added, “We always thought that’s why you call them slippers. Because they slip off, you know.”
The news came as a disappointment, but also as something of a relief. After all, it meant that she and her friend weren’t hopelessly clueless about life.
But speaking of the unknown, she put her second question to them: “How did Jesus rise from the dead?”
Her grandparents looked at one another again, and then back at their granddaughter.
“We don’t know that, either,” they gently said. “It’s a more amazing thing than keeping a rubber slipper on. But we think it has to do with how much God loves, and how strong God’s love is. It’s strong enough to bring Jesus to us. It’s strong enough to bring Jesus’ message to us. And it’s strong enough to bring Jesus back to us.”
She thought about that for a moment, and gave her grandfather a big hug. “Love like that?” she asked.
“Like that, only even bigger,” he told her.
She gave her grandmother and even bigger hug, and asked, “Love like that?”
Her grandmother laughed for sheer joy and said, “Exactly like that: Only even bigger, and grander, and stronger.
“Yes, grandchild: Exactly like that.”
Two notes: First, this story led into the dedication of rubber slippers collected by the church to be given to local school health aides. They will be available for children whose rubber slippers break or disappear during their active days, and for those who appear at school without them.
Second, I was told after the service by a proud (and wondering) grandmother that her grandchildren run around all day in rubber slippers without them ever falling off. So I guess there is a secret to it — but I sure never learned what it is!
The photo is by Ze’ev Barkan, used by permission under Creative Commons license.