Staring at my purple, painted toe nails today, my mind flashed back to my five-year-old self. With my blond curly head bent down, I was tapping my purple jelly shoes together with delight. My tanned little toes peeked out.
I was waiting for my dad to come home. He’d been in Venezuela for a month. I remember running up as he emerged from the car, showing him my new shoes. I was so proud of those shoes, but more than anything I was proud of my dad.
A girl’s shoes mark out important moments, phases of life she passes through. Each pair has a story to tell, unique to the female who wears them.
My generation is marked by the white high-tops and rainbow laces I had when we moved back to America in the mid-90’s. Soon after, I wore saddle shoes with my dresses.
We move forward to that incredibly awkward stage of middle school. I am blushing at the thought, but I must be honest, I had sports sandals. This is even harder to say….. here goes…. I sometimes wore socks with. They went with my tucked in t-shirt, tapered jeans, big bow in my hair, and the TrapperKeeper I carried to every single class.
Let’s move on.
Then came an absolute saving grace in my life, my first pair of running shoes. These marked me leaving the “smart, quiet, nerd” phase of my life and entering the “athletic, smart, quiet, nerd” phase. Until I had that pair of running shoes, I really did not belong. I had few friends, little confidence, and I hid behind my books because I knew I could. No one questions an anti-social smart person. But, in my heart, I wanted people to see me. I just did not know how.
My running shoes took my feet over miles and miles of country dirt roads. They helped me run through severe anxiety and depression in my high school years. They helped mend a broken heart. They took my legs on a journey while I worshiped God in my heart.
After getting a runner’s body, noticed for being a decent athlete, and a lot more confidence, I entered into the “boys think I’m cute, athletic, smart, a little less quiet, nerd” phase. Thank you, running shoes!
I’ve been through hard-worn serving shoes, grass clipping and paint covered old runners, life guard’s flip-flops, and (on to my favorite work shoe) the corporate world’s gorgeous stiletto high heels and patent leather pumps. These marked my many hours labored, many hard earned dollars, and my adult life emerging. So many important lessons took place in those shoes.
Now, let’s squeeze our feet into the tight (and ironically enough purple) rock climbing shoes. These afforded me hours of great fun, much sweat, and building great friendships while working off stress. This is my mid-20’s where now the rock climbing, running shoes, and snowboard boots are next to shiny, designer heels. Becoming much more comfortable with who I am.
Two years ago, I was staring down at my fuzzy socks, with a pair of flip-flops slapped over them. Yes, I COMPLETELY REVERTED to socks with sandals!
But, in these shoes, I entered my best phase yet. You see, my feet were cold in the night, our sleeping shed positioned on the side of a hill in this small East Timor village. It’s where my heart became full with a passion to see communities developed, lives changed, injustice and poverty struck down.
A year later, I completely abandoned shoes as I trudged and slipped through the vast, muddy river shores in Papua New Guinea. Any shoe would have been suctioned off my feet in the knee deep sludge.
Then, I think of the bright colored, high heels of the girls who I met in Cambodia. There are girls who would trade in their pretty shoes for a life of freedom; shoes that do not take them into the night.
I have begun to realize how important shoes are. They keep so many disease and injuries at bay. (And, just this minute I found a shoe useful for killing a cockroach). They tell a story of who we are, where we’ve been, and where we are going.
I recognize the privilege of not only owning pairs of shoes, but getting to learn so many lessons in them.
Isaiah 52:7 says, “How lovely on the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who announces peace, and brings good news of happiness, who announces salvation, and says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!’”
I recognize how important shoes are, but my prayer is that no matter what is on my feet. In poverty, in wealth, in good times and bad, my feet will always lead me in God’s ways. That no matter what mountain or terrain in the world I tread upon I can proclaim, “Our God Reigns!”