Of Converse and Coaches
By Ruth Ann Cornelson
"Mom! They're not real!" Bright blue eyes looked into mine, sparking with a hint of anger and glistening with unshed tears. "Mom, I was so embarrassed! I thought they were real."
I looked down at the turquoise, high-top tennis shoes I had given her that afternoon. I had been so eager to give them to her, knowing how she longed for a pair of Converse high-tops.
However, she was correct; these were not real, although they sported a star on the ankle and looked exactly the same. I had been sure she wouldn't notice and, in her excitement at receiving such a treasure, she had not. She had rushed to me, throwing her arms around me. "Thank you, thank you. I can't wait to wear them to youth group tonight and show everyone."
Her smile was so big, my heart burst with joy at the sight of it. I held her tight, reveling in her pleasure. I longed to be able to give her the real thing, but it simply wasn't in the budget. It never crossed my mind to end this precious moment by telling her. It couldn't possibly matter that much to an eleven-year-old.
The smile never left her face through dinner and the ride to church. Her pride and excitement filled the car. I had looked eagerly forward to picking her up and hearing all the wonders of her time showing them off. But now, seeing her devastated little face, my heart broke, knowing I had, although well-intentioned, caused this deep distress.
"Honey, I'm sure everyone loved them. They probably never even noticed," I encouraged.
"Mom, of course they noticed. I went in all excited and they came over to see. Shannon took one look and yelled, 'Those aren't Converse,' and then everyone looked close and they all knew. I was so embarrassed!! How could you do that? You should have told me."
All my good intentions could not dull the enormity of her shame and disappointment. Although innocently, she had misrepresented her shoes and was caught in her deceit; my deceit. Her shoes were not Converse, only imitations.
Somehow she recovered from the tragedy, but seldom wore her fake Converse. Some years later, she ran to me, a delighted 15-year-old. "Mom, look what I got! A real Coach purse!! I can't believe it! It's a real Coach!"
I was excited for her, although it looked pretty much like a regular purse to me.
"Nobody's going to believe it! Look Mom. It's got the real 'C' and look at the tag! I can't believe it! It's a real Coach."
Later I remembered her great embarrassment over the imitation Converse shoes and ran a comparison against this thrill of the real Coach purse. Real and imitation, often only a thin line separates the two. Who can tell? I found myself wondering, 'Am I the real thing when it comes to my faith? Can people around me tell that I really believe the things I say? Do I live what I talk consistently, or only conveniently? Am I sometimes embarrassed of my faith and try to hide it?'
Jesus said, "If any of you are embarrassed over me and the way I'm leading you when you get around your fickle and unfocused friends, know that you'll be an even greater embarrassment to the Son of Man when he arrives in all the splendor of God, his Father, with an army of the holy angels."¹
I had embarrassed my daughter by giving her imitation shoes. I don't want to embarrass Jesus by being an imitation Christian. I want to be real in my love for Him and for others.
"This is real love-not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. Don't just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good."²
"And now, children, stay with Christ. Live deeply in Christ. Then we'll be ready for Him when He appears, ready to receive Him with open arms, with no cause for red-faced guilt or lame excuses when He arrives."³
I watched my daughter leading worship on Sunday, my throat tight with gratitude and pride. She had been embarrassed of her imitation Converse, but has never been embarrassed of her faith. She is a real Coach Christian. Praise God!
¹ Mark 8:38 MSG
² I John 4:10-11 NLT
³ I John 2:28 MSG
RUTH ANN CORNELSON was born in India to missionary parents and attended boarding school for 1st through 4th grade. After 4th grade the family returned to Canada, then moved to Seattle where she has lived ever since. Ruth Ann graduated from Canadian Bible College in Regina, Saskatchewan, where she met her husband. Ruth Ann and her husband have just celebrated their 29th wedding anniversary. They have three daughters, 27, 24, and 19, and a darling granddaughter who just turned one. Ruth Ann works part time for a graphic design company, where she occasionally gets to do some writing for brochures and other marketing materials, which she enjoys. Other enjoyable pastimes are camping with her family, traveling, going to hockey games, getting together with friends, reading and, of course, writing for FaithWriters. If you would like to write to Ruth Ann, you can do so through the Letters page of this magazine.