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Disheveled Theologian: The theology of socks

Warning: It’s possible that this post will feel a little more disheveled than usual. It’s been a long week.

When I was growing up, my mom — like probably your mom — had a missing sock basket, where unmatched socks lay waiting patiently for their mates to be found, often for months on end. My mom’s basket also held ironing, which, together with the graveyard of socks, meant that I avoided that basket at all costs as a potential “boredom buster / task master,” should I ever express an interest in it in my mother’s presence.

Every so often, when the ironing was completed and the socks lying mutely on the bottom of the basket saw the light of day, Mom, in an act of sheer callousness, would toss all the unmatched footwear into the wastebasket, thereby ending their quest for meaning and usefulness in this world.

Overly dramatic? Perhaps. But then again, I can still see their sad little faces in my nightmares.

Ok, I can’t really. But I do feel badly for unmatched socks. Don’t ask me why because I’m not entirely sure.

My own particular missing sock pile has evolved. What was once a smallish basket on my dresser has become a largish basket in the closet for socks which have reached the “I’m almost certain their mate is lost forever” category, in addition to the smallish basket on my dresser for “I’m pretty sure they’re just temporarily under (insert name here)’s bed”. 

Why am I keeping the “I’m almost certain their mate is lost forever” socks? I already explained that. I feel badly for them. That, and I’m an optimist.

In my quest to full the life-purpose of all socks, everywhere, I have found a way to extend the life of certain unmatched socks. I have discovered that, if I lower my expectations just a little, then certain socks which almost match each other can be hooked up. I can only stand this if it is the heel color that is unmatched. In other words, the part that is inside of the shoe so that no one can see that they don’t match.

My youngest daughter informs me that unmatched socks are cool. This was encouraging to me, as I then began to consider this little trick of hooking up unmatched heels as my way of being a cool mom. So what if the other kids can’t see that the heels don’t match? Neither can the other moms, and they’re the ones I care about impressing in this scenario.

A few years ago I was at a family reunion and something my cousin’s wife said to me made me want to assure her that I am a normal, imperfect, cool mom. Having just noticed that my youngest child was wearing socks that were at least one size too small for her, I said, “Looks like I’ve been a negligent mom — Lucy’s socks don’t fit her any more…but at least they match.”

To which my cousin’s wife replied, “My kids’ socks never match, and most of them have holes.”

Holey socks, Batman! So much for trying to relate to this woman. 

Believe it or not, socks — and their wandering mates — lead me to my point, which is that there are some things in life which we can compromise on, such as having mismatched socks — but there are other things in life which we cannot.

Jesus said that he, himself, is the one and only way to reach God. No compromise is possible. No half-matched theology or “holey” theology will do. (I couldn’t resist.) Did you know, by the way, that to be “holy” means to be “set apart”? Kinda like a matched set of socks is set apart as I fold the laundry.

Set apart. Sanctified. Perfectly matched. Uncompromised.

I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure that the next time I fold my family’s socks, I’ll give theology a little more thought than I usually do.

“Jesus answered, ‘I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’” John 14:6 NIV

Gretchen O’Donnell is a freelance writer who lives in Worthington with her husband and three children. She has a master’s degree from Bethel Seminary and enjoys writing about the things she sees and applying theological truths to everyday situations. Her column, The Disheveled Theologian, is published weekly. Her email is gcodon@gmail.com.

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