You are altogether beautiful, my darling;
there is no flaw in you.
Song of Songs 4:7
One afternoon on vacation, Jack sent me to the pool to relax while the kids took a nap. As I settled down into my lawn chair, I didn’t even think about how I looked in my swimsuit. After three babies in four years, bedrest, NICUs, and endless doctor appointments, I couldn’t have cared less what I looked like that blessed afternoon I spent by the pool alone. I ordered chips, guacamole, and a glass of wine and reveled in my nap-time freedom.
That is, until a young woman about 17 sprawled her perky body across the lawn chair next to me. She wasn’t overly provocative or flirty, behaving no differently than I would have at her age. But she just was, ya know?, that fresh gorgeous that turns heads.
I’m not a very jealous person by nature, but it was difficult to not start asking myself how in the world Miss Fresh Gorgeous turns into–well, to be honest–me. I sat there, remembering my own first bloom at seventeen, when I wasn’t even sure of this gift of a body I’d been given. I had just stared in the mirror in shock over the way a bikini did, in fact, fit me.
As the afternoon progressed, I noticed how much my young and gorgeous counterpart fidgeted with her suit. She turned and readjusted herself, as if she was working out this new body of hers, like a new car she hadn’t yet gotten comfortable driving. And while I wistfully admired and even envied her perky hot number that day at the pool, I didn’t for one second wish to return to her phase of novice womanhood.
That night, while my family slept, I brushed my teeth in front of the mirror and stopped to look at myself for a good long while. I stared at my sunburned shoulders and my pore-pocked face, along with the new wrinkles starting to form from too much stress or just too many days by the pool. I tried not to focus on the lines running down the sides of my nose from the way I’ve always scrunched my face up to smile. I made a mental note to get home from vacation and buy wrinkle cream.
As I washed my face, I let my scrutiny fall to my hands. Sporting the same rings and holding the same man’s hands every day for a good fifteen years, I failed to wear gloves or get manicures after washing mountains of dirty dishes and planting gardens. You can tell by their wear. Yet, they’ve served up love in countless meals and softed feverish heads, typed hundreds of blog posts,and folded thousands of loads of laundry.
And as I slipped on my pajamas, I couldn’t help but wince. I sport more stretch marks from my lithium weight than my swelling humongous to deliver three babies. And, oh, these legs! I’ve had a love-hate relationship with them since girlhood. I’ve always wanted the other girls’ skinny “chicken legs,” to wear skinny jeans and look like something other than a stuffed turkey in them. But turkey or chicken, these legs have rocked me and my babies back and forth in Aunt Ginny’s old glider, paced waiting room floors, and sprinted at the sound of my babies’ cries. And I am grateful for them, to be carried through this life by sturdy and reliable if not chicken legs.
I don’t know when it happened, but somehow between all the ways I’ve been angry at this precious, God-given body for failing me, all the ways I’ve punished her for falling short, I started to see all the ways I needed her and all the ways she’s come through for me. I started to cherish her for the temple she is, for the spirit of God she houses, not just for the sum of her parts (1 Corinthians 3:16). And when I started to see my body as temple–as sacred–I started to say thank you more and scrutinize less.
As I closed my eyes that night, I whispered to heaven,I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made, not only in spirit, but in this body as well. I have been blessed with a precious temple in which I’ve loved a man, co-created children, fed, dressed, held, rocked, hugged, and danced. I have been blessed.
but I did hunt down that wrinkle cream when I got home . . .
Good luck at the pool;)