I ground my forehead into my hands with agony.
I can’t do it. I can’t.
The world looked bleak and hard and cold. The impossibilities of adapting to the standards of college life overwhelmed me with despair. At that moment, a full slate of classes, or a rigorous job, or trenches of homework shrank to become petty details compared to the one requirement I could not bring myself to accept. Closed-toe shoes. That’s right—closed-toe shoes. This simple item of college dress code had me writhing in anguish.
You may laugh at my absurdity. But I grew up a missionary kid on a tropical island; flip-flops were common footwear and anything above sandals was impractically extravagant. We kids never wore socks unless the temperatures dropped to a frigid 76 degrees Fahrenheit. Bare feet were the norm until my mother insisted we wear something on our feet to keep free of worms and other interesting dangers.
Thus, I have reached my 20th year of life with a pronounced aversion to shoes. So when I heard that lady students at my Bible college were required to wear closed shoes and nylons to all classes and church services, I inwardly rebelled. Rules are rules, however, so off to various shoe stores I dragged my mutinous feet.
The array of options was bewildering. I LOATHE decisions. One pair was too tight, another too loose. I tried various flats and pumps (if that’s even what they’re called), determined to conquer or die, but they just felt too weird.
Finally, my grandma showed me a pair of black Airwalk slip-ons that seemed comfortable enough. They weren’t the classiest or the trendiest, but they didn’t threaten to fall off with every step or cut off all circulation to my toes. And they were closed. So I bought them and have been wearing them ever since with surprising ease. I wore them to a week-long discipleship course at my Bible college. I played volleyball in them. Walked all over creation in them without having to wonder how my feet would survive.
So; the lesson in all this. Just because something feels weird doesn’t mean it’s wrong. Just because you have never done it before doesn’t make it impossible. Just because you hit a bump in the road doesn’t mean you should quit.
Proverbs 24:10 “If thou faint in the day of adversity, thy strength is small.”
I needed the right perspective in this situation.
Hebrews 12:3-4 “For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds. Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.”
Here I was, about to attend a course on Biblical discipleship, and I thought I was going to die if I had to wear closed shoes! If my spirit fainted at having to keep a dress code, how would I handle true adversity in battling for souls? Jesus suffered death on a cross, naked and mocked and bleeding out, for me. He endured the deepest anguish. Surely such a simple cross as wearing more restrictive shoes is not worthy to be compared to the cross my Savior bore.
Maybe for you, it’s something else. Maybe a “cross” you are balking to carry is a stricter standard of music. Perhaps it is modest dress. You may be rebelling against parental authority or the preaching of God’s Word, or a ministry you know you should join but it just feels too weird. Some things we have to do simply because they are right, not because they feel good. But no obedience should be drudgery to us—with the correct perspective, obedience brings joy.
Proverbs 16:3 “Commit thy works unto the Lord, and thy thoughts shall be established.”
Proverbs 10:29 “The way of the Lord is strength to the upright.”
After I obeyed the rules and started to wear the closed shoes I had once despised, I found they weren’t as bad as my imagination had painted. I could actually enjoy wearing them. I could get used to them. But the Lord would have been pleased much more by my obedience if I had chosen to obey with joy, not with grudging. Out of love for Him, not out of necessity. I should have submitted willingly, even though it felt weird.