When my two brothers and I were young we always knew school was getting close because our mother would take us downtown to buy new shoes, a dress pair and a school pair (not hand-me-downs but the real thing). My fifth grade year I talked my mom into letting me get a pair of black patten-leather shoes with French heels. I tried them on with little white anklets and felt so pretty as I blundered gracelessly up and down the rows of boxed foot apparel, thrilled with the tapping sound my new "church shoes" made on the linoleum floor.
The next day was Sunday; I flitted onto the Miss America runway. (Some with less imagination referred to it as a church aisle.) I would have waved to my fans, had my mother not been watching me with eyebrow raised, a look for which I was the recipient far too often.
The following morning, I begged mom to let me wear my new best friends to school. She refused. Relentlessly I continued until I finally wore her down. Oh, what a happy day this was going to be! First the anklets, rolled perfectly so the lace wasn't curled, then the Cinderella slippers, and finally the test -- the mirror. I was pretty. I would soon have all my classmates crowding around me, wanting me to be their partner in jump rope or, better yet, asking if they could push me on the merry-go-round for a change.
Sometime in the first hour or two of school, the predictable happened. The nun happened to look my way when I happened to be talking and I was told I had to stay in at recess. That day I didn't care because even staying in at recess can be fun if you're pretty.
There I sat, all alone, legs crossed, rhythmically swinging my foot up just above the front of my desk so I had the perfect view to look at my reflection in my patten shoes. Through the corner of my eye, I noticed a couple of eighth-grade girls walking by my classroom's door. I swung my feet a little higher, just in case they had missed their chance to envy what I had and they didn't, but instead of "oohs" and "aahs" coming from the hallway, I heard giggling. I looked as the eighth-grade troublemakers backed into the open doorway, pointed at my feet, and began laughing hysterically. I had no idea what was so funny. Perhaps it was the anklets. Perhaps it was just a gangly 11-year old with size eight shoes trying to fit in. Perhaps it was just who they were. (The last part I didn't realize until years later.)
The point is, I am in my 60s and still remember that incident as if it happened this morning. I remember the cruel look on the two girls' faces and I remember not feeling pretty again for a very, very long time. It was a life lesson, but it didn't end there, for even now there are those moments of insecurity. My patten leather shoe experience just masquerades in different forms. Even when I speak I have to reject a faint whisper reminding me that I am incompetent. I'm not smart enough. I'm not young enough. I'm not funny enough. And I'm definitely not holy enough. Everyone else is much more qualified than I. Even now, when I walk into a room full of strangers, I'm a little uncomfortable. Even now, when I look in a mirror, I wonder who replaced me with an aging imposter.
The only difference between THEN and NOW is that I recognize the whisperer ... and it isn't my Creator. It is the enemy who wants me to focus on my inadequacies instead of on my position in God. I daily must remind myself that, as a daughter of the King, I cannot give Satan any authority to make me doubt how my Father sees me, for doing so causes me to fall into the all-consuming trap of focusing my attention inward instead of upward. That was never God's plan. "I am the Lord; that is my name! I will not give my glory to another or my praise to idols" (Isaiah 42:8).
And neither should we. Especially if that idol happens to be us.