At the ripe old age of twelve, body blooming, imagination shooting stars, dreams beaming like fireworks, I got the chance to choose for myself, how I wanted to spend fifth period! All students were allowed to choose an elective course for their school schedule.
I studied the possibilities intently, Wood Working, Stamp Collecting, Manners for Teenagers, Tap Dancing…Tap Dancing!!! There it was! My mind raced with all the glitter and feathers and bling of the dance costumes I’d seen my friends wear at their recitals.
I found the racks of tap shoes all shiny and new resting in their boxes like so much black gold, but I was instantly drawn to a pair on the next rack which were not new but were resale items. There they were, calling to me from a bygone performance yearning to tell me the story of where they had been and what they had seen, not black at all, but sparkling silver with large purple bows! I rushed to them and took them of the shelf and tried them on, and just like Cinderella and the glass slipper that was meant for only her, they fit me perfectly!
My mother happily purchased the used silver shoes which were less expensive than the other pairs and together we raved on their beauty all the way home. All weekend long I practiced my newly learned flap, heel, heel and ball change steps until Monday came and fifth period and it was time for all of us to slide into our tap shoes and make our magic.
I slid mine onto white socks with lace that matched the abundant purple organza bows and stood in line with my dance sisters, beaming inside at the opportunity to try something I really was interested in and to be wearing shoes that were so fabulous! Just then, I noticed that all the other dance sisters had chosen differently than me. One by one, they came to stand in our kick line with the shiny black shoes, the kind that I had seen in the store and passed over like day old bread. Every one of them had chosen the normal, ordinary, nothing special black shoes until my unique, expressive, creative, fashion forward option felt foolish, excessive and silly. Silver sparkling shoes with purple bows, excessive…how could this be?
Suddenly I hated my silver shoes and all I wanted was a pair of regular, old, black shiny ones like everyone else. I could hardly step ball change for concern that I was sticking out and looking utterly ridiculous. I begged, I pleaded with my mama to buy me some new shoes, but one pair was all that was in the budget, she suggested instead, “Sweetheart, be different, be exceptional, be who you are!!” Lame! In the sixth grade all I wanted to be was just like everyone else?
I wish I could tell you that’s where it ended, with the sparkling silver shoes, but it didn’t. A thousand times or more in my life, I have found myself standing out of the crowd because of my fashion choices or my hair color or my point of view. For much of my life, I railed against these inclinations and reverted to flying under the radar, blending in, not making a spectacle, until, the truth is, I just got bored. I felt like I was living life in someone else's body.
Somewhere along the way, I decided there was some benefit to just being me. I decided to embrace the fact that I have wild, unruly curly hair and fundamentally believe any given thing is better covered in rhinestones and I always, always want to lift up the ‘other view.’ I want to look at scripture in a fresh light, I want to celebrate the perspective of the one in the story who is consistently overlooked, I want to help us to notice the wonder of God’s glorious creation that we buzz by on our way to all the other things that take our time.
At some point on the journey, I decided I wanted to be fully me, created in the image of God, and that this,above all else was my calling…being who I was created to be, fully, consciously, intentionally, celebrating God’s own creation (Ps. 139). So my word to you today, to all of you struggling with the question of who should I be? What should I imitate? What does perfect look like? I wish I was more like_________; is quite simply, be who you are! Take your tap shoes off the shelf and just dance!!