Recently my teenage daughter went camping with her boyfriend’s church and returned having discovered the power of red toenails.
Normally newly painted toenails wouldn’t empower her so much, but these toenails were different. The power wasn’t coming from her red toenails. Her power was coming from a new-found ability to persuade her 16-year-old, 6’5″ boyfriend to let her paint his toenails red.
Teenage boys tend to give away a lot of power to teenage girls. I know that when I was in high school, I had very little power left when I was in the presence of girls like Sarah Hockensmith, Phyllis Quackenbush and Suzanne Studebaker.
And aside from missing the chance to change their surnames, they missed a great shot at multiplying their power through being married to a columnist.
But the most powerful one of all was a girl named Tawny Michelangelo. What a mysterious name she had. With the eyes, dress, and complexion of a gypsy girl, she turned heads on my high school campus.
I’ll never forget the day she first called my name. “Norris, come here,” she summoned from across the art room.
I’m not sure how I made the pilgrimage across the room without tripping on my tongue, but she welcomed me with a simple command – “Give me your hand.”
As I extended my hand, she took it, palm in palm.
Then, placing her finger on the back side of my hand, she began softly scratching with her index finger.
“Does this hurt,” she asked sympathetically
“No, not at all,” I said, surrendering to the anesthetizing effect of her eyes.
“Good,” she said softly. “Do you mind if I just keep doing this for about five minutes or so?”
I nodded my head in affirmation, knowing full well that as long as I got to hold her hand, I’d not be feeling any discomfort.
If you are tempted to ask why I would so blindly obey such a command, I remind you that at that point in my life, I didn’t yet know I was mortal.
For the next several minutes, a group of kids gathered around us as she scratched and talked and I blushed and stammered.
At the end of the five minutes, my hand was reddened and stinging.
“There,” she said. “You’re going to have a scab there for about a week and after that you’ll have a nice scar to remember me by.”
And as quickly as I realized how right she’d be, she released my hand and crossed to the other side of the room to help another boy remember her.
Faded by the years and additional arm hair, the scar eventually disappeared, but it has always reminded me of how easily we tend to give our power away to false gods — like the god of gypsy high school girls.
It’s easy to be distracted by the flash of false gods and think that a sweet cover girl face is heaven on earth. But problems come in the morning – when we wake up with red toenails.
If you remember the Biblical story of Samson and Delilah, you’ll remember that the incredible hulking Samson gave away his power to Delilah by revealing that the source of his muscular power was his long hair.
Soon after that pillow talk, he awoke to discover that he’d been buzzed of his power locks.
But by the end of the story, Samson began to realize the truth of what the Prophet Isaiah had taught – the power of God wasn’t to be understood through wind, fire, earthquakes, or flashy muscles, but through listening to “the still small voice.”
Listening to others’ voices can sometimes get us into trouble, especially if those voices are attached to false gods. But if we check in with the still, small voice of God that speaks in our heart of hearts then we can begin to curb the power of the false and use our power for good.