She was the epitome of lightheartedness, swinging her tiny tanned legs back and forth enthusiastically and licking the melting ice cream from a cone just in time to keep it from dripping. Not a care in the world. Young and free. The spunky little girl looked somehow familiar to me.
As I pondered how I could possibly know her, it suddenly dawned on me that I didn’t. The part that sparked a distant memory for me was her sandals. They were white leather, fastened with a small silver buckle, a triangular strip fitting between her stubby toes.
When I was her age, I had a pair exactly like them.
I loved those sandals. I remember wearing them with a flowy, floral-patterned sundress that had straps and a belt made of braided ribbon. Somewhere, there is a fading photo of me as a little girl wearing that outfit. Oblivious to any rules of fashion, my hair was pulled up in messy pigtails, and I was beaming — probably for no reason whatsoever other than the fact that at that moment, I felt happy. I smiled as I watched the little girl in my memory, the girl I used to be, twirl around joyfully in her flowery sun dress and white sandals — happy, secure, and content.
Before grown-up responsibility, major life decisions, painful rejection, and constant comparison. Before she measured everything she said, did, or thought, by an impossible standard of perfection. I miss that little girl; I haven’t seen her in such a long time.
There is an old saying, “Don’t judge a man until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes.” The words are meant to inspire empathy, but for me, I really wish I could go back in time and walk a mile in my little girl shoes — whether it be white sandals, black patent leather Mary-Janes, or tacky character-themed tennis shoes. Just a mile or two. No need to relocate to Neverland but just to be back there for a little while — to renew and refresh and remember what it’s like to feel completely safe, innocent, trusting, and carefree. To be my mother’s joy, the apple of my father’s eye.
Maybe your childhood was less than idyllic. Truth be known, mine was much further from perfection than I tend to remember. The “good old days” are never quite as magical as our memories sometimes paint them to be. But no matter your past, it’s never too late to become a child of God. The Christian faith is based on the miraculous new birth that is possible for all who believe.
I watched the sandal-clad little girl for a minute. She finished her cone and hopped down off the bench to catch up with her family. As she skipped away, I thought about how, even at my age, even though I sometimes forget it, I am still so much like her.
I am safe – securely protected by my loving Father.
I am pure – made clean by the forgiveness and redemption of a Savior.
I am trusting – putting my faith fully and completely in the God who adores me.
And no matter how old I get, how much weight I gain, how gray my hair becomes, how frumpily I dress, or how jaded this cruel world makes me, I will always be His child. John 1:12-13 says, “But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn — not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God.”
I plan to dig through my “big girl” closet before the summer ends and look for the closest thing I can find to a cute sundress. I’m going to buckle up a pair of sandals and twirl around in front a full-length mirror, smiling at what I see, even though I realize it’s so very far from perfection.
I’ll make time to find an ice cream cone, not concerning myself with calories or carbs or the effect of dairy on my aging digestive system. In a scenic spot in the sunshine (not forgetting the SPF 45, of course!), I’ll sit and swing my legs back and forth with passion and breathe deeply, in a state of complete, blissful peace.
I will focus only on that precise moment in time, without obsessing over the past or worrying about the future. I’ll absorb the warmth and beauty of the day and think about how divine my ice cream tastes, making sure I catch all the melting splendor before it has time to drip onto my pretty dress.
Most importantly, because He has promised to never leave me, I will celebrate the fact that I am still the apple of my Father’s eye. I will consciously give all my responsibilities and insecurities to Him, realizing that I have every reason to be happy, secure, and content because He is the ultimate, capable parent. He will take care of me, just like He always has.
There is immense security in knowing that in an ever-changing world, some things are forever. No matter how much time passes, how much we mature or regress, there is a love that remains constant. And although our feet may have grown just a little over the years, we can all still find a pair of white summer sandals that fit just right.