I confess. I love shoes.
They were the last thing I bought before the pandemic hit. But they were bought in secret. With a credit card. An expensive pair of sandals I had been eyeing for a while. While on vacation in a city with my favorite store, I caved in. It was the last pair in my size. They were no longer available online. How could I walk away?
I wore the sandals to a party that night. When I slipped them off afterward, I noted they were not too scuffed. I was having buyer’s remorse. My favorite store has a great return policy. I could put them nicely back in the stylish shoe bag they came in, place them back in the box, and easily return them.
But I didn’t.
And then the pandemic hit.
The shoes did not get returned. I hid them on the bottom shelf of the closet in the stylish shoe bag.
Within a span of a few days I traversed from buying shoes and going out to dinner across the country to sheltering in place and hoping to find toilet paper.
But I was not the one shopping for necessities. My husband suddenly became the household shopper. He took on the responsibility of shopping for the best prices for household items in multiple stores so that we could stay under budget.
Budget. A word I confess I hate. For years I had promised, attempted, and failed to stay under budget. We had the “budget talk” numerous times in almost 40 years of marriage. Throughout my journals I see prayers asking God to give me discipline and strength to be content.
But this. This was it. We had to stay under budget. We had no income.
I felt like we were newlyweds again. Counting dollars. Making do with the items we had in the pantry. Thank goodness we no longer had four other mouths to feed. We stayed under the numbers my husband crunched out. In the days of starting over, of cleaning out the house, of cleaning out the closets and other hidden places, my husband found a letter we received 30 years ago in the mail.
It was typewritten on a piece of yellow legal paper. It said: “Here’s a little something to help out. Keep pressing on.” It was folded neatly into an envelope with no return address and a $100 bill.
I placed this reminder in a frame and put it on the shelf across the dining table. A marker from long ago of God’s faithfulness during a time when we depended completely on him.
Then it came time to reconcile the bills.
Time to confess about the shoes.
I remember my first confession as a young girl. My heart beat in my chest as I ran through the list of possibilities in my head—what is considered a sin? Did I say something mean to my sister? Did I lie to my mom? Did I say a bad word? I remember the closet of the confessional, the dark wooden screen with a light behind it. The small sliding window that opened up just enough for the priest to hear me say “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned.” As a child, I found it easier to speak aloud a list of sins to a man behind a screen and to reconcile with a few Hail Mary’s than I do as an adult to truly come clean with the man closest to me.
As we go over the bills, a window of opportunity slides open for me to confess my wrongdoing before my husband.
It felt like a true first confession. For the past week I’d witnessed everything we had placed our security in put on the edge, and watched my beloved husband scrawl over paperwork and SBA forms, gathering all we had to put it on the table. With my heart beating in my chest and tears running down my face, I left the table to retrieve what was in the closet.
The word confess, homologeo, in Greek means: not to deny, to declare openly, speak out freely.
I am humbly grateful for a man with whom I can speak freely, confess openly, declare the darkest parts of my heart—not just the action of buying the shoes, but the years of insecurity, false comfort, and empty gratification that filled my closet and other hidden spaces. This confession, a spoken declaration, bubbled to the surface because of the events around us. For the act of cleansing externally in our shelters and remaining in close quarters have forced us to remove masks that have been in place for many years.
Centuries ago, a man approached a bush he saw was on fire, but not being consumed. As he approached this bush, he heard a voice call his name. The man said, “Here am I.”
And the voice said, “Take off your sandals, for this is holy ground.” The word “take off” in Hebrew is the word nashal: to clear out completely, clear entirely.
Sandals during that time were a sign of ownership. They were exchanged from hand to hand to indicate a giving up of possession. The sandals were probably the only thing of worth this man owned. And here God was, asking him to remove them, to clear them from his feet. Remove the only thing separating his bare feet from the holy ground where God approached him in the wilderness.
In this pandemic wilderness, this place of isolation my husband and I navigate together, we have had to physically and verbally clear out “things” tangible and intangible in the garage, in closets. The action of speaking out loud, as I did years ago in the confessional as a young girl fumbling for a list of perceived “wrongs,” is now a listing of actions rooted in false perceptions of self, insecurity, and fear.
To voice a wrongdoing gives it shape. To voice the reasons for a wrongdoing gives it a name.
Affirmation. False image. Loneliness.
As I tearfully voice these rationales, I remind him I am Filipino, and Imelda Marcos left their presidential palace with more than 3000 pairs of shoes.
Still, that did not give me license to fill the void I felt by my husband’s work and travel schedule with impulse buys.
I hand over the sandals.
Here am I.