If The Shoe Fits – Finding Your Purpose
Written by Major Susie Erickson
There’s nothing worse for your feet than wearing the wrong size shoe. Stuffing chubby feet in tiny shoes hurts, but loose–fitting ones are painful too. As the youngest of five daughters, I had a built–in shoe store at home. Wearing my sisters’ shoes gave new meaning to the expression, “walking in someone else’s shoes.” I stuffed toilet paper in the toes for a better fit. My feet were killing me by the end of the day. I did more stumbling than walking, shuffling, but never getting anywhere.
The same is true when we try to walk in the footsteps of others by holding our life up in the mirror of comparison when we have no idea what made them who they are. Comparison is a slippery slope to thinking. We say we are “set aside” instead of “set apart” for a holy purpose. When the grass outside the castle of a colleague looks greener, we fall prey to the green monster of envy. Convinced their life is a fairytale, we wonder why ours is not. Thoughts of inadequacy send us tumbling into a moat of negative self–talk. We drain our bank accounts, both material and mental to keep up the image of royalty. We robe ourselves in a princess attitude as a protective mask. With a crown the weight of library books stacked on our head, one wrong move will dismantle our fake identity, revealing to the world we are nothing more than a commoner in fancy attire with a stack of books on our head.
God’s plans for us are as unique as the hands who knit us together in our mother’s womb. Woven within us are temperament, passions, skills and talents custom made for us. The key to unlocking our purpose is finding and developing the strengths within. When we embrace our story partnered with our unique gifting, we find our glass slipper. A shoe custom made for our foot. With the right pair of shoes, we can take on the world. Let’s settle the comparison game once and for all. Life and ministry are not a competition. We each are one–of–a–kind. When God made our glass slipper, He broke the mold. Step into your purpose. Be you, and only you.
We may have a shared calling to ministry, but the way we carry it out will look different based on our God–given story, gifting and purpose. God called me to be a wife, homemaker, Salvation Army Officer and writer. Daily, He calls me to deeper intimacy with Him.
One calling is not holier than another. I cannot label them primary or secondary, like bread and butter dishes supporting a full plate of ministry. Or display them in china cabinets awaiting their opportunity to make a grand appearance at holidays or special occasions. They must be an intentional part of a daily rhythm in my life.
Balance does not come easy for me. The act of juggling multiple plates in the air while wearing a pair of stiletto heels standing on one foot like an elegant flamingo is a disaster waiting to happen. I drop a proverbial plate while trying to rest the one of greatest importance on my shoulder. I have danced this balancing act and the results were disastrous with broken plates in my soul–care and self–care collection. Cornerstones in the foundation of ministry became shards of glass scattered across the floor. The broken pieces form a mosaic of a life lived in balance instead of rhythm.
Family members are the heirloom dishes I treasure most. It’s heartbreaking to see the priceless pieces shatter when they collide with life centered around ministry. The household loses the freedom of walking barefoot when slivers of glass hide in unexpected places.
When I concentrate on balance, I lose focus. I see only the plate right in front of me with the longest list vying for my attention. I stuff my face with busyness while running on empty, with nothing to offer the other callings of equal value.
I become vulnerable to the belief system of checks and balances, with a mark on my list of tasks being synonymous with my significance. I become a taskmaster as if I can win God’s favor by producing a completed list at the end of the day. Busyness changes my focus from being with God to doing things for God. When my toil bears no fruit it leaves me exhausted and frustrated. At the end of the day, check marks don’t equal holy living.
I lose a sense of myself when I see life through the narrow lens of ministry, rather than sacred purpose. We can fulfill our purpose through the call to ministry, but it’s possible to spend thirty years in ministry and miss our purpose.
Mary, Martha, and Lazarus represent one of the most notable hospitality teams in the Bible. Mary specialized in customer service, while Martha focused on quality control. Martha found her ministry in the kitchen, but she missed her purpose while scrubbing pots and pans. Resentment simmered while she toiled in the kitchen. Martha asked Jesus to scold Mary for not helping with the tasks at hand. He gently helped her understand the busyness of serving God had become a barrier to knowing Him. Mary found her purpose. She chose the better part.
Ministry will come and go. Purpose sees us through the golden years when we sit on the front porch rockers and ponder the meaning of forty–five years of ministry. Purpose gives us a reason to get out of bed when the name plate changes on our former office.
What about you, what’s your purpose? Travel down the dusty road to your childhood and remember how you played, what you wanted to be when you grew up. Hidden beneath layers of “adulting” is a child who longs to get out and play. Unlatch the screen door and let her run wild and free. Follow her through the meadow of your memory, she’ll lead you to your custom made glass slippers.