When I was around five-years-old and my sister was three, our pediatrician told my mother there was something wrong with mine and my sister’s feet. Whatever the malady was, it required special corrective shoes.
I don’t know why this is, but if something is corrective, it’s never attractive. These shoes were no exception. They were clunky and only came in two color choices: white and black or white and brown. They screamed their purpose. My sister and I hated them.
Buying shoes became a traumatic and sad affair for the both of us at our tender ages. We’d pass all the cute little Mary Jane’s to sit and be measured by the shoe salesman (remember when?) who would then bring out a box of brown and white and black and white shoes. My sister and I would cry. My mother would put her arm around us both and try to be encouraging by telling us it was only for a little while. But children don’t understand “little while.” All they know is right now, and in that moment, I had to force my feet into ugly shoes that hurt.
The good news was, the neighborhood kids were kind about our ugly corrections and no one made fun of my sister or I as we wore our shoes. Everyone just ignored them. I’m sure this was much to the relief of my five-year-old little self.
Many years later, when I was a young adult, my mother mentioned those shoes. She apologized for forcing my sister and I into wearing them. She went so far as to entertain the idea that there probably wasn’t anything wrong with our feet and it was possible the shoes were completely unnecessary. I replied by telling her it was easy to think there hadn’t been any need for correction now that our feet were perfect.
I didn’t want her to worry about the decision she made all those years ago. Either way, my mom was doing the best she knew to do with the tools she had at the time. She had a doctor who told her our feet needed correcting, and she had the shoes that could make the necessary correction.
Not much has changed. As an adult, I still find myself needing corrective gear of some sort. It’s still unattractive, and it still hurts. But these corrections are of the heart and soul, and they aren’t as easily seen as the shoes of my youth. Yet they still determine how I walk the path before me. And just like when I was a kid, I may not understand the need for the correction, but I appreciate when others make the effort to encourage me or graciously let it go.
These lessons may start when we’re small, but they continue as we move into adulthood. With the recent passing of my mother, I have come to mine these story gems for what they can offer me now. So, I hope we each can we take a lesson from my mom and the neighborhood kids with whom I hung around when I was five and cut each other a little kindness when our paths come together. Instead of pointing out our neighbor’s corrective shoes, we can put our arms around each other and encourage one another to keep walking, even when the correction hurts. And let’s remember, that no matter who it is, whether spouse, sibling, adult child, or friend, we don’t really know the corrections the Lord would make in their lives, because when He talks to us about weaknesses, He’ll be talking to us about ours, not someone else’s.
It’s not our place to determine what someone else needs to correct or what shoes they need to wear to fix whatever we may see as a fault. Besides, whatever corrections we’d have someone else make wouldn’t fit anyway. In all those young years my sister and I wore corrective shoes, we could never exchange them. Her shoes were molded to her specific needs as were mine.
Our only job is to make sure our own pair of corrective shoes is in working order and pointing in the right direction. That’s enough to keep us busy for the rest of our journey.
(KJV Matthew 7: 3-5)