Ten minutes after I should have left, I pulled the carefully-placed bobby pins from my hair and tossed them onto the bathroom counter.
“I should be there by now,” I told Him. “And this doesn’t make any sense…”
Once my hair was somewhat-satisfactorily in a ponytail, I kicked my brown flats back into the recesses of my closet and grabbed my Converse from their spot by my bed. Lacing them up, my heart began to race.
“No sense,” I repeated. “I can’t believe I’m doing this…..”
Once in the car, the conversation really picked up.
“God, I’m doing this because you’ve asked me to. Not because I want to. Not because it’s easy. Only because You asked me to and I don’t want anything to get in the way of the message You have for Your people. Nothing, especially me. So here I am…just as I am…and I’m doing this….the way You want me to do it. Just remove ME from the equation.”
I prayed all the way to church, and once there, held back tears as a song played in the worship space on the pre-worship playlist. And not just any song….but the very song that I hadn’t listened to in months but that had echoed in my mind all week. The very song that wouldn’t leave my mind even as I slept. The very song that had been on my lips that very morning.
“I can feel it in my bones, you’re about to move…. I feel it on the wind – you’re about to ride in. You said that you would pour your Spirit out. Said that it would fall on your sons and daughters…” (Bethel Music, “Spirit Move”)
Thirty minutes later, microphone in place, I stepped onstage.
“Good morning, y’all! I’m excited to be here to share today’s message with you….”
As I stood in the bright lights on the (admittedly and thankfully low) stage at my church, I stood there more authentically ME than I ever have. I stood there in the same kind of clothes I wear the other six days of the week…and the same kind of clothes I would wear to church on an average Sunday.
Jeans. A simple white shirt. A Target clearance-rack shrug from two years ago. And Converse.
Tennis shoes, y’all.
The tennis shoes were the kicker. TENNIS SHOES. I love my Converse, but onstage? In front of my whole church? PREACHING? I’d worn them up there to do the welcome – the introductory “we’re glad you’re here” comments – but preaching? It had always been so out of the question that it was never even a consideration.
And yet…there I was. The rest of the story? Earlier that morning, as I got dressed, I had pulled my brown flats from the spot in the closet they had occupied since the last time I preached. I literally wiped dust off them as I slipped them on, and it was then that I heard it as clearly as if He had walked into my bedroom.
“Why are you doing that? Who is it you’re performing for?”
It was loving, this voice of admonition, but it was firm. It was clear, and I knew what He was asking me to do without Him actually saying a word. Take off the flats. Wear your Converse. Forget your fancy hair. Do a ponytail.
Hearing His words, my heart pounded like I was a child caught in the act. Really, that’s exactly what I was. I had been approaching the morning – my whole onstage role, in fact – as a performance. I’ve always prayed that God would make me invisible and silent…that when I stand to speak His Word and reveal His mysteries to His children…the only voice they would hear is His and the only one they’d see is Him. My actions, though? They showed another motive.
I always gave too much thought to what I’d wear…how my hair would be…what I could do to look the part and not be embarrassed when I had to watch the video. How I could look cute and like I belonged up there.
I’d been focused on the costume, rather than the calling.
I was busted. My lip trembled and the lump in my throat rose as He spoke again: I called YOU. You, Jess.
With my instructions clear and my spirit empowered by His, I did what I was told. I changed my shoes…undid my careful hairdo…and went to church as myself. No costumes…no persona. Just me, as I am.
Because God never called me to perform. And if my words or thoughts or clothes reflect anything else, something has to change…and it just might be my shoes.