Author's note: I am privileged to celebrate my rebaptism on May 21, the same day I was born; Over the last several years, I have developed a habit of sharing a lesson(s) that Jesus taught me between my spiritual birthdays. If you're interested in reading the previous two, here they are.
I have lived a good life. My experience with personal grief is limited so when the worst loss of my life came to me, I had no idea how to handle it. I tried everything that could lead to healthy coping, including counseling. One day, I shared a habit: I like poking my fingers with sharp objects, like needles, edges, or women's nails.
"Oh," she said in a tone that made me realize how morbid I sounded.
I laughed. "I don't know why," I quickly added. "I think it's because I easily get lost in my thoughts so the tangible sensations bring me back to earth."
After a pause, "Grounded is the term for that; may I suggest you walk barefoot for a few minutes each day? I know it's cold outside, but it will provide the feeling you're looking for."
"Oh," I said suddenly feeling a little more normal.
I've always been a big fan of barefoot walking, and the cold never bothered me anyways. Thus I began the strange part of my life when I could be spotted promenading on Southern's promenade barefoot and wrapped in a Mexican blanket—poncho style. For some reason or other, people have associated me with good—albeit flamboyant—outfits, but this one made no sense.
Why was I walking around barefoot? On the promenade, to my classes, into Destiny Drama rehearsals, the cafeteria, and even into the bathrooms. After receiving my counselor's suggestion, I didn't simply go stand in the grass for a few minutes each day; I forsook shoes altogether. I can't say I barefooted every single day; the phase itself didn't last that long.
Mostly, I barefooted when the sadness was too much for my mind and heart.
My counselor pointed out that when Jesus was in Gethsemane, He clung to the rock by His fingertips. Grounded is about the earth giving you a sense of stability when everything in life is being snatched away.
I soon realized I couldn't tell everybody the gory details of my sadness; it would get boring and a little pathetic after awhile, so I started making things up. I don't mean lying, I simply mean sharing aspects of the truth, instead of the whole truth. For example,
"Why are you in a blanket?"
"I'm cold. It's cold."
"It's 70 degrees today."
"I'm Mexican. I'm not built for 70!"
Or, "Where are your shoes?"
"Well, I forgot them in my office because I was in a hurry," (Never mind that I didn't have an office yet)
I learned to laugh at my coping and to rely on Jesus because pain is such a subjective experience. There is no human who can fix it, and even the Almighty often doesn't fix temporal struggles; He simply promises presence and hope in the midst of suffering. Additionally, as I walked in a melancholy daze, knowing fully well that I was only reaping the consequences of every selfish choice I had made for the past two years, I learned the value of community.
I like to think of myself as strong and independent, but without friends who were willing ot be seen the barefoot Mexican in public, I would have crumbled. Without the listening ears of friends who stayed late in the night with me, I fall apart. Without the well-timed humor and the right-on-cue encouragement of friends, no amount of grounding helps.
I'm very conscientious about my feet. I think they are ugly, and I am keenly aware that not everyone has hairy toe knuckles. It's one of the reasons I dislike flip flops. Even though I've always liked the sensation of being barefoot, I used to hide them.
Over the past year, my flaws and mistakes, the ugly part of my character came roaring out. All the things I had wanted to hide from everyone ceased to be hide-able. My public persona was shattered. And when I panicked, I made more errors. My ego was lost. My way of life was lost. My favorite person was lost.
It seemed like everything was snatched away from me, and I was left naked, exposed, and weak.
But you know what? I survived. I passed my classes, as well as helping Student Association, assisting two clubs, participating in the India Fashion show, making BOOMMINISTRIES videos, performing skits, preaching sermons, traveling to Egypt, crafting Lighting projects, and even sky diving. God gave me a good year.
An experience that first sucked up my will to live has now became a positive turning point in my life that filled me with new appreciation for living. Loss has created a new person who is less worried about ego and pleasure, and more interested on community and love. I am now the kind of person who comes home for two weeks to struggle with hours of boredom for the sake of minutes with family.
My shoeless days came to an abrupt end when Ms. Linda, the lady who manages the dining hall, told me she couldn't allow me inside the cafeteria without shoes. "I'm sorry, Bryant. It's policies."She knows every student's name. It's quite impressive; in fact, she won a duck (statue) for it.
I went back to my room and got the next best thing to bare feet: flip flops. I was upset with Ms. Linda because she had ruined my poetic images by forcing shoes on me. Then I wondered if may be this moment was God-sent.
Because grounded isn't about dirt and floor beneath your skin; grounded is about holding on to the Rock who gives new gifts when everything old is necessarily snatched away.
Oh, one day that'll make a good blog post, I thought as I flip-flopped past Ms. Linda and towards the Sam's chicken.