All greeting protocols observed.
Let’s get right into it.
I probably didn’t introduce much detail about my aunt so let’s do that.
My aunt was a widow, she had lost her husband when her second daughter was still a baby. Fast forward to the time I started living with her, many years later, she sold mostly fruits & vegetables at a local market for a living. We sometimes took turns to go sell vegetables at the market to give each other turns to go home and eat and rest a bit. Other times, she sold clothes in villages during harvest times when villagers had the money to afford them. Eventually, she started selling clothes at the flea market & we would help out with that too especially during the weekends or school holidays. She was diligent and successful in all of this, whether it was vegetables or clothes, it was fruitful. I admired that because through that, she managed to raise her daughters, myself and to support other relatives in one way or the other.
I truly commend her for being business savvy the way that she was. We always had enough food and other basic necessities in life. Of course, we didn’t have luxuries (not that they were actually necessary). Clothes were one of those luxuries & I don’t mean basic clothes, we didn’t live in tatters, I mean fancy clothes (not fancy in terms of expense but rather in terms of preference).
Side note: I had enough clothes. You know how typical African parents buy big-sized clothes for their children so that they can grow into them? I also had that. I usually think and laugh about how I wore until I was probably 12+ some of the clothes my late mom bought for me when I was a toddler. Of course I got other clothes along the way, but most of them were in sets, and by sets I am referring to what is popularly known to Zimbabweans as “2-piece” which I guess also just means a set. When I moved to Bulawayo, my niece (the one I referred to as having been a baby earlier) also gave me some of her clothes too so I had quite a bit of 2-piece sets, which was actually a blessing. At times, I would also get a new skirt or dress, pair of shoes etc.
Regardless of how great all this was in its own right, in my silly teenage brain, I thought my clothes were not cool enough for those rare yet occasional days (dubbed Civies days) at school when we were allowed to wear our regular clothes and not the school uniform. Those were generally the days to show off your best outfit, I would say & I just felt like none of my clothes were at par with what my classmates would be wearing on such days. In my defense, I have always been very keen on fashion since as far back as my memory can take me, but we will talk about that some other day. My version of cool was being able to wear jeans, or pants or shorts which was not an option in my aunt’s house or just most of my family or church. There was a general belief that wearing pants was not decent enough for a well-meaning Christian woman and that was not up for discussion with my aunt. The ‘problem’ is I liked them when I saw them on others, I thought they were ‘cool’. Obviously, my aunt was not going to buy me those, she was against them. I was not going to buy them myself, I couldn’t afford them.
Around the same time, I reconnected with my childhood friend and cousin-Natasha and we became friends and ultimately got very close. Natty was my mom’s sister’s daughter, she still is ha ha. We had similar body sizes so we could wear each other’s clothes. As such, I got into the habit of borrowing her ‘cool’ clothes whenever we had one of these days at school. Which means I would leave home wearing one thing, and spend the day at school wearing another, and change back into my former clothes before I returned home. There are times I would bump into my niece I lived with at school and I am sure she would be just shocked by my audacity and duplicity. It felt good really to spend the day feeling ‘cool’ and belonging with other kids at school & if I’m being honest, my ‘cool’ clothes weren’t even that cool, they were just what I wanted them to be, jeans!
This went on and on until one day. Natasha had just received a new gift of thigh high heeled boots. Civies day was around the corner yet again and we needed to come up with another one of my ‘cool’ outfits and here were these new boots that the new owner didn’t seem to consider for the day. I was ecstatic! I had a chance to wear heels! I think they were said to be from the US or UK, I barely remember, and that to me meant no one would have shoes as good as mine so of course I wore them as part of my cool outfit. One thing to note though is these shoes had never been worn before so no one really knew much about the experience of wearing them and yes, I was in for a surprise!
…They did not have grip….you know that design under your shoes that makes sure you can *stand your ground* and not easily fall? Yes, that is what was missing in these shoes. Hah!
Boy o boy, did I not spend the entire day falling!
It started with me walking into our tiled classroom where a considerable number of my classmates were already seated waiting for a class. The moment I set foot on those tiles, I just came tumbling down, right in front of them and as they laughed at me, I had to get up and continue to my seat, embarrased of course. That was just my first class in the morning! I had places to go the entire day and yes, I kept falling down everywhere there was a polished floor or a tiled floor and that was most corridors, classrooms and places in general. I wasn’t that great in walking in heels anyway, so I was walking like a new born goat and falling as many times as can be counted whilst at it!
When I reflected on this entire scenario, I figured how unfortunate it is that a great deal of people live their lives like I did. Wearing two/more different outfits, well-in this context personalities, depending with where we are, who we are trying to impress & what need we are trying to feed. Chameleon-ing our way in life to feel loved, accepted and appreciated. In fact, it is believed that we are all born with three major needs: the need to belong, the need to feel safe and the need to feel valued & if one or more of these are unfulfilled in childhood, we tend to live our lives trying to quench that need/needs in many ways than can be pinpointed.
You know what I think? I think we all owe it to ourselves to build our lives on the foundation of knowing that God loves us and that we belong in Him, not just TO Him. So many of the decisions we make and the behaviors we exhibit would be better quality if we embraced the truth that in God, we belong, we are loved, and although we have room to grow and many changes to embrace, we are enough. I look back now at how I lacked a sense of belonging and worked beyond my pay-grade to ensure I forced myself to belong in places I was low-key nervous I would possibly not belong in. I would insist on calling my aunt my mom so that I could feel that I belonged in her family, I would spend the day falling in someone else’s shoes so that I could belong with the cool-kids at my new school (& the list is quuiiiite long). Yet, to God, I was enough in my ‘two-piece’ & never really ‘cool’ in slippery boots.
Jeremiah 31:3 The Lord appeared from of old to me, saying, Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn you and continued My faithfulness to you.
As society evolves, we are increasingly finding ourselves taking up more figurative shoes, or aspiring to take on even more as a measure of success. Of course, it is an admirable measure of success if you can be introduced as a multi-achiever. Don’t get me wrong, being successful & fruitful is godly when it is aligned with God’s will.
Let me ask this: what fuels your desires, your ambitions, your daily meditations and achievements? Is it doing God’s will or proving that (1) you belong & can be loved, (2) you are such an achiever-you can be valued, & (3) that you have secured for yourself enough so as to feel safe? The reality is all those 3 needs are God-sized needs that can only be wholly & not superficially fulfilled by God who has a solid plan for your life & solid love for it too.
Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
He also says in Matthew 5:16 Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good deeds and moral excellence, and [recognize and honor and] glorify your Father who is in heaven.
It’s close to impossible to truly shine before men when your persona is dependent on who you want to calculatingly impress and also all your shining is borrowed from another source.
SO…here is the end of the matter. You have shoes meant for you & no one else. It would be wise to not spend your whole life constantly tripping & falling because you are showing up in someone else’s shoes. To not try being ‘cool’ as another person. There is enough room in any room you may find yourself in for ‘the girl in a 2-piece set’ even if you end up as the only one in the 2-piece set. Lean on God as you map out who to show up as in every room. He knows who He created you to be and how He intends for you to show up in any space. (Trust me, there is a whole lot of unnecessary embarrassment awaiting you in someone else’s boots than in your own pair of pumps.)
Let’s Say A Little Prayer Before We Call It A Day
Heavenly Father, loving Father & ever-present Father, you love us with an everlasting love. We are safe in you, we belong in you and we are valued by you & valuable in You. Help us to see ourselves from your lenses. Help us to accept ourselves as intentionally, uniquely, wonderfully & fearfully made by you with a plan and a purpose. We are not an accidental choice/happenstance. You brought us into this world because you wanted us here. Help us to not fill God-sized voids with human-sized substitutes. Help us to heal from the trauma/lies that have insisted that we are not enough on our own without wearing facades of who we think we should be. Help us to forgive ourselves & others who have convinced us that we are not good enough. We embrace your love, your plans, ways and thoughts concerning our lives because they are way better than our own. Help us to wear only the shoes you intend for us to wear, and to not be tempted into wearing shoes we think we should wear instead. In Jesus’ name we pray.
Until next time…