My dad was in the army, a veteran of the Korean conflict. He remained part of the National Guard and served his country for forty years, from the fifties until the early nineties, and then he received retirement papers the same week he received orders to report for duty in Operation Desert Storm. He was a little disappointed when he didn’t have to deploy.
Guard duty took one weekend a month, and I would always know that weekend was approaching because he’d take out the shoe polish –the paste in a can—and his black lace-up combat boots and start working on them. I always loved to watch the process. He shined the shoes with great care. And...I always wanted to help, so maybe it was natural that as I grew older, the task of boot duty fell to me.
Wednesdays before guard duty, he’d bring me his boots, black paste polish, and stiff bristled brush. Month after month, year after year, those boots came back dull and dirty. Sometimes they needed more cleaning than others.
Each month they had to pass inspection—my dad’s inspection, and when they didn’t, my dad gave me “the look.” I knew my job hadn’t been up to par, and he was going to have to fix my shoddy work. With a dejected spirit, I’d surrender the polish, brush, and boots into his capable hands. He would buff and brush until he could see his reflection. My dad held me to a high standard and never wavered. Sometimes I’d insist those boots just couldn’t hold a shine anymore, but he’d always prove me wrong.
Now the years have passed, and there are no more boots to shine. How I miss them.
As I look back I realize my dad wasn’t just teaching me how to polish combat boots, he was teaching me about life. Although at times we get dirty and dull, there is never a time when we can’t be polished. Sometimes it takes a bit of work and extra effort, but like those combat boots, no matter how dull, we can still hold a shine. And sometimes we just have to surrender ourselves to the Hands of our Heavenly Father who buffs and polishes until our lives reflect His image.
I still miss the clean scent of leather and the feel of the brush in my hand, and the knowledge that I had done a decent job in the eyes of my father. My dad wasn’t a man who spoke a lot, he instructed by deeds and actions. With a simple task my father taught me a great deal not only about shining boots, but also about Christian life.
But He knoweth the way that I take: when He hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold. Job 23:10