There is a wonderful, “Negro spiritual” that has helped me to learn how to live life joyfully. The song has traditionally been titled “I Got Shoes.” The lyrics are simple and somewhat repetitive. The first verse is “I got shoes, you got shoes, all God’s children got shoes, when I get to heaven, gonna put on my shoes and walk all over God’s heaven. The refrain is “Everybody talking ’bout heaven ain’t going there.” In the next three verses, the word “shoes” is replaced with song, robe, and crown; and the phrase “Walk all over God’s heaven” is replaced with “shout, strut, and shout” respectively.
As I recently listened to this song, it occurred to me that in each verse, the singer acknowledges what she already has. Yet she is looking to some future time, some future experience before she uses what is hers. She even questions whether she or the folks who already have, what they have, would ever be able to use them as she sang, “Everybody talking ‘bout heaven ain’t going there,” implying that if you don’t get to heaven, you will not have chance to “put on your shoes’ or “sing your song’ or to enjoy your robe and crown.
So what does this have to do with living life joyfully? How many of us have gifts, talents, and powers that we are waiting until the “perfect situation” to use? When we do that, our lives are singing these lyrics. The song has the gifts being used when the singer gets to heaven, heaven is the perfect situation in the future. In other words, she is chasing after what can never be. There is only NOW; and when realized, heaven is right here and now. Our being in heaven has only to do with our consciousness, not with a future time, nor a future experience, nor some particular place. The song reminds me to use my shoes that I already have to carry myself from joyful experience to joyful experience right here and now. It reminds me to sing my songs of love, praise, and gratitude right here and now. It reminds me to wear my robe that covers, protects and looks so beautiful on me, to walk through my life of magnificent experiences. And finally, my crown, I shall wear it now to remind me that I am a child of the Most High as I open myself up to receive all the gifts that God has already created for me.
Rev. Dr. Jacqueline Triche Atkins