All the Shoes
I know I haven’t written in a while.
It’s because the events of the past several weeks have been something I haven’t been able to put into words. But I want to try, because there sure is a story in there that God wants to tell.
Let’s start here, because it’s my favorite part: about a month ago, Christopher proposed to me in Amsterdam and we are now ENGAGED!!! Y’ALL. I KNOW. Cue ALL THE HAPPY TEARS! The girl who was always waiting and has always felt unloveable is now the girl who is finally chosen. I still haven’t fully processed it. My heart doesn’t even know what to do with this information. I’m all discombobulated and thrown off, in the very BEST WAY. No words do justice to the amount of care and sweetness and thought and love he put into it, but I’ll still tell you the very best story from my life so far as best I can:
We went to Europe with his parents for their 50th anniversary (already an amazing blessing, just to be able to go), and one afternoon, we were exploring Amsterdam together with his family when he said he wanted to show us his favorite place in the city. We followed him down twisting alleyways to an old churchyard in the middle of the city, quiet and tucked away between buildings despite being surrounded by busy Amsterdam all around. The Zuiderkerk (Dutch for “South Church”) and its pretty steeples watched from above as he sat me down on the steps, pulled out a bowl and a towel, tenderly took off my shoes and washed my feet, telling me he wanted to love and serve me as Christ loves and serves the church. He tearfully asked me to marry him, I tearfully replied ARE YOU KIDDING ME OF COURSE, and as soon as I said yes, his entire crew wrapped me in their arms one by one and welcomed me to the family, calling me daughter, sister, aunt. It was such a gift. It’s weeks later and I still lose it every time I remember.
The next several days were a whirlwind and a dream, spending our days laughing on boats in the canals of Amsterdam and Giethoorn and dipping our feet in the sea on beaches in Rijs, and our nights sleeping in an actual castle in Kerkrade. My heart overflowed with the things I have waited for for so long – family, chosenness, a love that mirrors that of my Father in heaven – a love that would not give up. Not to mention how many worlds away this was from where I came from. Here I was, a girl from HUD housing and Hamburger Helper and drug busts down the street, picked up and dropped into an actual damn castle eating local free-range chicken with a sauce I was pretty sure was made by Jesus Himself. Or Gordon Ramsay. Somebody on that level. I mean, gosh.
God sure does like to turn the stories we tell ourselves completely upside down and backwards. He defends the cause of the fatherless. He provides for the orphan and the widow. He sets the lonely in families. He replaces our ashes with beauty and gives us a garment of praise for our heaviness. I am in awe of His kindness. In. Awe. Christopher is just the very best gift and I can’t wait to marry him and spend forever doing life together, and learning how to love better with each passing moment.
But being deliriously happy is complicated for people from hard places. You get this if you are one. There is this feeling that it will all be taken away if you’re not careful, that everything you love and has brought good into your life will disappear, because that’s what has always happened. That’s how it’s always been. You become terrified that the other shoe will drop. Happiness can only last so long, after all. The pattern of your life, of damage, abuse, neglect, and heartache will return sooner or later, right? The only question is when, and that question looms. These thoughts steal All. Your. Joy.
He reminds me of all my stories.
Before Jesus and I were friends, I thought that marriage would fix all my problems and save me from a life of being unwanted, uninvited, and unloved. Without Him gently but firmly tearing down every idol I had erected to marriage, I would have continued to hang all my self-worth on this relationship until I burned it to the ground in a horrible self-fulfilling prophecy orchestrated by the enemy of my soul.
Before Jesus and I set out on this journey of helping me look more like love, I thought that a man loving me would fill up every canyon of unworthiness and emptiness in me and patch up every hole punched in my heart by a father who failed. Without Him stepping into the gap and whispering healing over every wound until they became bumpy but beautiful scars, I would have continued to make every man I dated responsible for my heart and happiness until I ended up driving them all away with my bitterness and lashing out, and I would have ended up alone, sad, and unfulfilled.
Before Jesus lifted me up out of the muck I was stuck in and showed me how to put my feet in His footprints, I thought the mess of my past would cling to me forever and that no one would ever want this damaged, fat, ugly girl who seems to drop every ball and can’t keep her ish together to save her life (that’s the song the enemy constantly tries to sing over me). Without Jesus leaning in and staying even when I was sure He would get sick of me and leave, I would still be terrified to trust anyone for fear that they would hurt me and abandon me, just like the man who walked out on me before I took my first breath.
There is a story in the Bible where God appears to Moses in a burning bush. One of the first things He says to Moses is, “Take off your sandals, this is holy ground.” Because of this, I still take my shoes off in church and tuck them under the chair in front of me when I think I can get away with it without offending people. It’s a vulnerable thing to take off our shoes, isn’t it? It means we can’t run. We can’t fend for ourselves. One of the ugliest parts of us is on display for others to see. We have to trust that we are in a safe place. It’s a little bit like being our true selves, being barefoot. There is nowhere to run or hide, and we have to trust that it’s safe to be seen. Even the ugly parts. Maybe that’s part of why the disciples were freaked out when Jesus took off their sandals to wash their feet. It’s part of why I freaked out when Christopher took my shoes off to wash mine. I’m working on being barefoot more often, but it’s hard.
I’m still so afraid the other shoe will drop, you guys.
But what if there is no other shoe? What if Jesus is just good, and there is no catch?
I think I’ll let the other shoe go and be a one-shoe hobo, dependent on His hands that open each day. Or maybe I’ll go on my way with no shoes at all. Maybe it’s time to just take ’em off. They don’t control me anymore. You can be brave and take yours off too, friend. Remember you’re one of His favorites and the fear of the other shoe doesn’t have to control you anymore, either. Let them go.
You can have all the shoes, Jesus. I’m Yours, and I trust You.
And gosh, thank You for all the incredible and ridiculous blessings. I don’t even know what to say. My heart is singing.