Red Shoes // Hannah Simmons

I am a people pleaser. All of my life, I have been in constant fear of crossing lines and breaking rules, of disappointing anyone because I lived off of their approval. Growing up, the mere knowledge that I had even indirectly cause anyone unhappiness was enough to turn me into an amorphous pool of teary guilt. Every thought process I had and decision I made was completely dictated by how it would affect someone else. How I was perceived was more important to me than who I actually was, and since I could never be sure of anyone's true opinion, I was never sure of myself. This insecurity carried itself into every area of my life, and it showed up most obviously in the way that I dressed. I worried so much about conforming to everyone's wishes and wasted so much emotional energy on what they would think of my choice of clothes every day that I had no real idea what I even liked. But whatever it was that I liked, it was definitely not what I was wearing. No matter what I put on, by the end of the day, I hated it and felt ugly. This was just an outward representation of my heart during this time: inept, unhappy, and paralyzed by looming mountains of expectations that would never get out of the corner of my eye long enough for me to have an independent thought. But one night, God would send a woman who, with no clue that she was doing it, would change everything.

I was sitting at a church gathering my family attended each week. Having recently started coming to this church, my introverted, awkward personality made these evenings my weekly torture sessions, as I sat for hours in a corner, simultaneously wishing someone would talk to me and terrified that I would be noticed. But by some miracle, tonight I was talking to someone. This girl was, and still is, hilarious, amazingly confident, and all around way to cool for me. And all of the sudden, she was sitting there with me and my sister, showing me her favorite Instagram pictures and just talking about life. I must have mentioned something about my problems with style, because I remember she looked at me and said "No matter what you wear, somebody is going to hate it. You will never be able to please everyone, so dress in what makes you happy." And then something clicked. I realized that I didn't want to be a cookie cutter version of someone else anymore. So the next day, I bought these bright red shoes and wore a purple sweater and went out and felt amazing. And I never looked back.

Now, my family has made a game of counting the colors in my outfit on any given day, and the sum is usually about twelve. My wardrobe includes royal blue jeans and coral fedoras, which may or may not have been worn together before. And once again, my style is a reflection of the inside of me. I know who I am now. I am Hannah Simmons, sometimes known as Frankie. I am a huge nerd. I love music, Butterfingers, and Harry Potter, and I'm not afraid of fuchsia lipstick or Shakespeare. No matter what kind of situation I'm in, if there is music on, I will be dancing. I'm still just a ditzy, geeky introvert, but I've stopped caring who finds out about that.

But this story is still missing something. Because, if I stopped right there, this would all be a victory for the world. If I stopped right there, they could make a Disney Channel movie out of my life, and goodness knows there are quite enough of those already. Because the reason that I'm okay with being different is not that I got a self esteem boost and started following my heart. I love being different because God made me a diverse, unique and weird person, and I would be repressing his glory if I didn't let that shine through. And guess what? That goes for you too.

Jesus did not call you out of the world so that you could be just like everyone else. He didn't die for you so that you could be hemmed in by the opinions of others. And He didn't save you into a life of inoffensiveness and popularity. If you are intentional about living in the mission field that God has placed you in, you are going to rub some people the wrong way. You have been given a job in this world that only you can complete, and I'm sure you've heard that before. So what makes it so hard to accept that, if you are the single person in the world who can possibly do what God wants you to do, then there has to be something about you that is completely and utterly different from anyone else on the entire planet, and you are going to have to be cool with being that person before you can fulfill your purpose. Maybe your different doesn't wear orange hipster glasses and have an obsession with Doctor Who. Maybe your different sets an example in modesty for a generation that has forgotten what clothes are for, or discovers a cure for cancer.

Whatever it does, it will be unlike anything the world has ever seen, and it will cause others to praise God, and it will be totally and beautifully you.

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