The Other Shoe
by Pastor George Van Alstine

You’ve heard the phrase “Waiting for the other shoe to drop.” It describes the feeling we have when something bad has happened and we are afraid that it’s only the first half of a pair of twin calamities. We’re fearful that the second blow will be worse than the first.

This saying apparently has its origin in an old story about a lodger who rents a room on the second floor of a country inn. The man takes off one shoe and drops it to the floor with a thud. The guy renting the room below is a light sleeper, and he wakes up with a start. He remains wide awake, waiting, until the other shoe drops. In a Vaudeville version of this scenario, the landlord warns the upstairs renter that the man below is a light sleeper. Forgetful for a moment, he noisily drops his first shoe, then, trying to be more thoughtful, he carefully and quietly lays his second shoe on the floor. However, the downstairs insomniac remains wide awake long after, in anticipation of the second thud. Finally, exasperated, he yells out, “When are you gonna drop the other one?”

This story makes it clear that the waiting can be even more painful than the bad events themselves. And, as in the Vaudeville version, the second thud may never come, so the anxious anticipation may be pointless, self-inflicted suffering.

The author of Hebrews in the New Testament reminded the early believers how much they had suffered when the first shoe of persecution had fallen on them:

“Recall those earlier days when, after you had been enlightened, you endured a hard
struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to abuse and persecution. You cheerfully accepted the plundering of your possessions, knowing that you possessed something better and more lasting.”
(Hebrews 10:32-34)

Now he sensed that they were fearing the second shoe:

“Do not abandon that confidence of yours. You need endurance.” (verses 35-36)

The waiting itself would be difficult, but they should be reassured that

“In a very little while, the one who is coming will come and will not delay.” (verse 37)

His concluding exhortation to them should be accepted as a challenge by anyone who has the tendency to wait fearfully for the second shoe:

“The Lord says,’My soul takes no pleasure in anyone who shrinks back.’ But we are not among those who shrink back and so are lost, but among those who have faith and so are
(verses 38-39)

If you don’t accept this challenge and, instead, continue your shrinking back, here’s another common saying that should make you even more fearful: “Bad things always happen in threes.” Threes? That guy upstairs may have three feet, or four, or . . .

Be among those who have faith and never shrink back.