I recently bought a pair of shoes. Sparkly, gold, pretty shoes for one of my best friend’s wedding. I bought a size that in years passed fit well. But wedding day came- and these shoes did NOT fit. It was clear as I tried to walk around my kitchen that a full day on my feet in these sparkly things that functioned only to sparkle while simultaneously killing the little piggies inside was just not going to work. I even tried to reason for a moment- ah, it’ll be okay. Can’t hurt too much. But a still small voice told me I knew better. Frustrated, I took the golden feet traps off begrudging the $40 down the drain I wasted on that shopping whim, and I chose a less flashy pair. But as the day unfolded, I never once worried about my feet. The shoes I chose were not as pretty or sparkly, but they were ones that fit now.
Call me obsessive, but for weeks after this I stayed irritated that the shoes I was looking forward to wearing didn’t fit. They were a size I’d worn for so long. Why didn’t they fit now? There was actually a period of time in my childhood where I habitually wore shoes that were too small for me. I liked the number of the size, so I made it work. I was cramped and uncomfortable, but it was all I knew. Someone finally had to bring it to my attention that I needed a bigger size. But this wasn’t the case now, I thought! This size has always fit! Well, not anymore. Apparently, when you have children, along with many physical changes can be one to your shoe size. What fit before no longer does because your capacity for more has grown. It wasn’t until a few weeks later, driving down the road, that it dawned on me. God was using this to illustrate a bigger issue in my life.
For a while now I have been battling with feeling as if I didn’t know my place. Those that know me best know that the things in my life I feel most called to are ministry through writing, teaching, and speaking, especially to women. For the last ten years I have helped lead worship in my church, and in that role I have grown in so many ways. I began feeling a discomfort rise within me over the last year or two, however, that I could not get a handle on. All I knew was that I felt uncomfortable, insecure, unsure. A place where I once derived much confidence and a settled sense of well-being began to feel shaky and uncertain. I didn’t feel as at home as I once did, and my confidence in my effectiveness was sorely shaken. Rather than being confident in who I am and what God could do through me at any given time, I found myself caught in the snare of comparison. And, as it is written, what a thief of joy that was. I began to use what I perceived others’ gifts and talents to be as a measuring stick to my own. I began to mistakenly assume that the feelings I felt were a sign that I was done- old, finished, irrelevant, needed to move on. Anytime anyone even mentioned the word “teaching” to me, I would cringe and resist. “Don’t tell me to be a teacher! Tell me I’m doing good at leading worship!” In my discomfort I sought affirmation as my prize. I was blind to the fact that I had allowed a position to become a place of comfort and home so much to the point that I would hang on to dear life and resist any nudge to do something else. I didn’t realize that the discomfort I was feeling was God’s gentle leading to go after some other things He had placed on my heart. But I had a shoe that had fit for so long, and I was not going to budge.
I wonder how often we are guilty of trying to make an old shoe fit. A size that used to be roomy and comfortable no longer is, but we want to walk until the soles are as holey as swiss. There comes a time in life when we have to throw the old shoe out and come to terms with a new size, a new shoe. We have to readily recognize when something that used to fit no longer does. Maybe the job that was once challenging and fulfilling no longer is. Maybe the circle of friends we had was fun for a time but as our priorities in life have changed, we no longer share the same ideals. Whatever it is, we have to be okay with allowing God to tap us on the shoulder and whisper to our hearts the things He has grown us out of.
There is an old story about a little girl who has a strand of pearls that she loves. The dime-store pearls are her prized possession, and one night her father enters her room with hands behind his back and he asks her to give up her pearls. Clutching her favorite object in the whole world she refuses. Her father assures her it will be worth it. She just has to be willing to trust him. When finally, through tears, she opens her white-knuckled fist to give her daddy her dime-store pearls, he hands her a new strand. This strand is even more beautiful than the last, and it is no dime-store trinket. These pearls are real. Overjoyed and relieved the little girl hugs her father and tears of understanding wash down her sweet face. She only had to trust her Daddy.
When we sense a tension in our lives that God may be asking us to let go of something, trust must be our go-to response. We must then and there always recount the goodness of God in our lives, that He has never failed us, that His ways are trustworthy and good. Should a rebellious thought rise up that we know better than Him, let us immediately cast it down. If God is asking us to hand Him something, it is because He has something better to give us or entrust us with in return. In fact, I would go so far as to say the moment we begin to feel that tension, joy should overtake us. For if we know our Father well, we know He has something beautiful in the exchange for our dime-store pearls.
For me, God allowed me to wrestle for over a year with these things that were on my heart. I love how He loves me. He knew it would take journeying through a process for me to realize what He was doing and be okay with it. He doesn’t despise the process that we sometimes just need to go through. Just like we aren’t born with adult arms and legs and abilities, we have to process through growth and sometimes even endure a few growing pains- so it is with spiritual matters. If God immediately gave us the answer, it would be of no lasting benefit to us. He knows there is value in staying in the process. So we have to learn to lean into it. And wisdom will teach us ways to not be so slow on the uptake for the next time.
So when the clouds in my brain finally parted over this issue, I gasped aloud as I was driving in my car and almost laughed at how clear it all was to me now. I began to see how God had been leading me all along. I couldn’t help but smile. I had been so worried that He would make me leave something I love that I had never considered that maybe all along He was just waiting on me to relinquish my grip long enough to see that He had made room for many dreams, for more than one strand of pearls. The key was, however, relinquishing the dream that I had become accustomed to and so very comfortable with. The moment I got settled in my heart that I would be okay with handing over my pearls, if that’s what He wanted me to do, was the moment clarity struck. As my pastor and father in law says, “God can be a ‘both/and’ God, not just an ‘either/or.’”
Maybe you’re in the same place I was. You’re feeling uncomfortable and unsteady in your current shoes. Maybe it’s time to ask God if what you’re feeling is a tension of growth, maybe even promotion. Maybe the shoes you’ve been wearing that were once roomy and fulfilling aren’t any longer. Maybe He’s calling you up. Maybe He’s calling you to take the next step. Whatever it is, let me encourage you it will be worth the leap. Our God is a good God. He is not in the business of withholding good things from His kids. We just have to be willing to open our hands and trust Him. Let’s recognize when the old shoe doesn’t fit. Besides, who ever hated getting a new pair of better shoes?