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Shoes that Fit

by Jonalyn Grace Fincher

NOTE FROM THE EDITOR: Today’s post excites me more than words can fully express. What you are about to read is an excerpt from Jonalyn Grace Fincher’s first book Ruby Slippers: How the Soul of a Woman Brings Her Home, one of my all-time favorites and one that I find myself recommending to someone new nearly every week. Jonalyn is inspirational, honest, confident, intelligent, and dedicated to investing in women. Her work has made a significant impact in my life and my understanding of biblical femininity, and hope you’ll find her writing as captivating as I’ve found it to be. Enjoy!

[photo credit]

In Grimm’s Fairy Tales, we find the original version of Cinderella, where the familiar glass slipper is actually a golden pair that is, of course, very small. When Cinderella’s evil stepsisters fail to fit into these tiny slippers, one stepsister slices off her offensively large heel, and the other, her enormous, protruding big toe. In turn, they shove their mutilated feet into the slippers and stifle their pain and think, “A queen will never have to walk,” and limp over to the prince. “Here I am,” they say, “good enough to fit the shoe.” But the telltale blood filling the golden slipper, spilling out, staining their stockings and marking their footprints, betrays them. A pair of doves sing warning to the prince, “Look at the trail of blood.” He turns his horse around and returns the false bride. What the Grimms tell us is that the wicked stepsisters both had beautiful feet, but they cut up something lovely so they might fit the small, dainty, golden slippers — slippers not made for them.

Like Cinderella’s stepsisters, I’ve tried to wear shoes that don’t really fit. For proms and formals and evening dinners, I will squeeze my feet into painfully high heels even though I’d rather wear sensible, though “unfeminine” shoes. I endure the evening with cramped, swollen, and pounding feet, new blisters that will heal over the next week, and an annoyance with my foolishness. Still, I keep smiling and announce that these shoes are really so comfortable.

Often the roles we play are like pinching shoes. In order to fit into some role, we squeeze ourselves, contort ourselves, even cut off parts of ourselves. We accept these roles, and the contortions they sometimes demand, and we call it womanly, submissive even. The script for this role might come as a stack of pink pages, in lovely cursive, complete with a lacy edge and pink ribbon. It has already been typed for us, perhaps lovingly by the men in our church or by the father who raised us or the grandmother who blamed us or the mother we still want to please. And we play the part perfectly.

It hurts to wear shoes that are not for us. It hurts to keep shaving off parts of our souls. Can we just admit it once and for all? Our feet don’t fit Cinderella’s slipper. Most of the time I’m not sexy or a dedicated homemaker or a fit athlete or a successful professional or (and this is hard to admit) perfectly rational. Can I suggest that you aren’t either? It’s embarrassing — -ugly even — -when we see what we’ve done to ourselves to fit something that doesn’t even belong to us, but until we admit it, we can’t get out of these silly shoes. Finally, we cannot learn that there might be more to us, more to walk into, more to life than our current view of Christian womanhood.

As cultural critic and apologist Elaine Storkey writes, “The frightening thing is that this distorted picture of Christian womanhood, and the unquestioned ‘rightness’ of traditional roles, has many women in its grip, and prevents them from getting within a mile of growing into maturity and knowing real freedom in Christ.” It’s time to remove these stifling shoes and corsets so we can walk closer to Christ.

–from Ruby Slippers: How the Soul of a Woman Brings Her Home (2007).

What roles are you playing that don’t fit who you are?

AUTHOR BIO: Jonalyn loves shoes. As a philosopher, cultural critic, wife and mother she and her husband Dale travel nationally as a husband-wife speaking/writing team with their non-profit Soulation. Her first book Ruby Slippers: How the Soul of a Woman Brings Her Home (Zondervan, 2007) offers a defense for women’s uniqueness and dignity. She weekly updates her blog on the sparkly connection between faith, feminism and Christian womanhood. You can follow her on Twitter at @JonalynFincher.

Photo Credit: Jeff Lefever

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