My first child got married a few weeks ago, a celebration bubbling with joy and beauty and illuminated by the presence of God. On a day when so much can go wrong, everything went right. As Thomas and Gina exchanged their vows, I was wrecked in the best of ways, encouraged by their exquisite expressions of love. I felt a mother-kinship with Mary as I treasured all the things (Luke 2:19). And, try as I might, there was no damming up my Niagara of happy tears.
I’ve been introspective ever since. The weeks leading up to their wedding were a flurry of travel, obligations, and to-do’s. I barely had time to consider how God was revealing Himself to me, yet He was and powerfully so. One of my favorite stories happened when God showed up in a sweet but unexpected way. First, a backstory.
Ages ago, I remember judging a girl in our couple’s Bible study group. Her wedding day was fast approaching, but her bridesmaids’ shoes hadn’t yet arrived. When our class leader asked for prayer requests, Shannon shot up her hand and asked us to pray for the shoes to get there on time.
Sitting around that circle were members struggling with health, job insecurity, marriage, and infertility — in my estimation, legitimate reasons to pray — and, here, Shannon was worried about matching bridesmaids’ shoes.
I scoffed at her absurd request and chalked it up to evidence of her spiritual immaturity. Meanwhile, I swelled with spiritual superiority. Sigh . . . thankfully times (and hearts) have changed.
I hadn’t thought about this in decades, until my son’s wedding day was fast approaching. I found myself frantically searching for a dress. Though I had purchased one to wear six months earlier, it wasn’t going to work after all. The ten to fifteen pounds I was sure I could lose clung on for dear life. (Two pounds a month had seemed so reasonable back in October . . .) The best seamstress in the world couldn’t conjure the magic my dress (or rear end) needed. Spanx might well work wonders, but only Jesus can work miracles.
After an exhaustive and sometimes panic-riddled search as the date loomed, I finally found a dress, only to discover my go-to sparkly shoes now had my feet screaming for mercy while my seamstress pinned my dress for alterations. I didn’t want to go shopping for shoes, but unless I wanted to be hobbling at my son’s wedding, I needed to.
Apparently, COVID impacted inventory. Repeatedly, salespeople told me their dress and shoe volume were a fraction of what it was pre-pandemic. “We didn’t think anyone would want party shoes,” explained the DSW worker pointing me toward the sad, little selection of 4” stilettos. Those, on me, would’ve been a recipe for disaster.
I found myself out of time the Saturday before Thomas’s wedding. On Monday, my seamstress needed to know the height of my shoes in order to hem my dress. It wasn’t that I was being overly picky, but my dress demanded a particular color, safety demanded stability, my feet demanded comfort, and vanity demanded style. (Piece of cake, right?)
By the time I got to Dillard’s, the shoe department was teeming with women. Sales associates were a haggard blur. A quick scan of their shelves told me I was in the right place, at least. They had an extensive selection, and I prayed they’d have something in my size.
Instantly, I remembered Shannon’s request thirty years ago, and, humbled, I understood the desperation that leads to such prayers. The irony of my circumstances — praying for wedding shoes — was not wasted.
Almost immediately, I met Michelle, a lady more desperate than me, looking for shoes for an event that night. We shared pictures of our dresses and offered suggestions of what to try next. I noticed another lady seated among a pile of shoes, and her style suggested a kindred spirit. When she looked up smiling sympathetically, I asked her if she would be my friend for the day and tell me what she really thought about the pair I had on. Heather took one look at the picture on my phone and said, “Gorgeous shoes, but they won’t look good with your dress.”
“But, I like ‘em, and they feeeeeeel good!” I whined. She held her ground (what a real friend would do) and told me to keep looking.
Other ladies asked to see my dress picture, and suddenly I had a whole team of stylists offering their opinions, picking up shoes from displays I hadn’t yet seen. Judy, Angela, Rain (that name!) needed shoes for themselves, and yet they were helping me! We were a band of strangers turned friends.
Ours was a simple solidarity born of helping one another, and it struck me: isn’t this the way of Christ? To serve rather than be served? When I finally found The Ones, everyone cheered. The salespeople smiled. My feet whispered, “Hallelujah!”
With new shoes in hand, I left Dillard’s with a buoyant heart. It’s impossible not to be affected by God’s presence. We expect it at church or during a wedding ceremony but not so much in a department store. And yet, right there in the middle of a last-minute shopping frenzy, I discovered the sweetness of God.
My immediate need had been met when I found the perfect pair of shoes – a generous answer to a surface-level prayer – but an even greater need was satisfied too: I had experienced God through the lovingkindness of others.
Philippians 2:4 sprang to life in the actions of my fellow shoe shoppers: “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” It would probably surprise them to know how moved I was by their collective help, but even small gestures of kindness reflect the glory of God. People have needs. People are hurting. Being kind and loving to the strangers around us might just give them the glimpse of God they’re desperate to see.Leave a Comment