I shifted from one foot to another as they giggled and raised their eyebrows. We were on a retreat together in the Texas Hill Country and it had rained almost every moment, forcing us to stay inside by the fire and have strange conversations about disproportionate legs.
“Well, I am from West Virginia,” I joked. “They always say hillbillies have one leg longer than the other from a lifetime of walking the slopes.”
It wasn’t until hours later that I looked down at my feet and realized what had been tripping me up all day. In an attempt not to disturb my roommate that morning, I had gotten dressed in the dark. And right there on my feet was the evidence: one black and one brown. I had put on two different kinds of boots.
“Maybe God wants you to be careful where you step today,” said Kelli—ever the deep thinker.
So I kept the mismatched boots on all day, walking slow through the moments—holding each one carefully in my hands and turning it over and over beneath my mind’s eye.
All these months later, after reading Michelle DeRusha’s book Spiritual Misfit, I see what an apt metaphor the boots are for my spiritual life. How many years have I treaded lightly, tiptoeing through God’s love? Always on the outside looking in, afraid of taking the wrong steps in this foreign land?
I was baptized eighteen years ago when I was seven months pregnant with my first child. I grew up knowing Jesus, but he was a different Jesus than the one I met on Sunday mornings as a grown-up. The Jesus I met as I sat in the pew, hand on my swelling abdomen, was grace-filled, intimate, gentle. I had caught glimpses of this Jesus over the years—especially through difficult times as a young girl. I had felt his comforting presence, had talked with him and drawn strength from his shelter. But I never believed I was worthy of such tender love, and so withdrew from that warm-embrace—sinking back into a life of rigid religion that all too often left me feeling hopeless and worthless. Who could live up to such perfectionistic standards? So different than the rule-bound, guilt-driven faith of my childhood, this new Jesus was someone I desperately wanted my children to know.
I never dared to believe he would want to know me too.
I recently celebrated another birthday and the older I get, the more I realize I will never understand the mysteries of God. I still sit in the pew, hand on empty abdomen, heart full with this realization: I am loved. I’m still learning the ways of mainline Christianity—the hymns, the prayers, the christianese. But the older I get, the more comfortable I am shedding those mismatched boots; recognizing we all walk with a limp and this wound is the blessing.
These are the days I dance barefoot through the parted waters of Love. Beloved misfit among beloved misfits.
Laura has an M.A. in clinical psychology and works in medical rehabilitation—counseling patients and their families through traumatic diagnoses such as brain and spinal cord injury, and stroke. She is a content editor at The High Calling, and blogs at lauraboggess.com. Watch for her new book Playdates with God: Having a Childlike Faith in a Grownup World, in October 2014.
Click here to purchase Spiritual Misfit: A Memoir of Uneasy Faith.