It's 38 degrees here in Michigan tonight. I don't like the cold, so I meet Him at the beach. The one in my imagination. It's 80 degrees there, sunny, and daytime for as long as I want it to be. It's 80 degrees for as long as I want it to be, and the sun doesn't burn us.
I'm watching the water because it calms me. I cannot even believe I left Florida this summer without standing by the ocean. I am thinking of regrets, but I don't want to think of them too long. And that's when He comes.
He sits beside me in the sand. He wears blue jeans and one of those poet shirts, and for some reason most of the time I see him He's dressed like that, though God knows I don't know anybody else who looks that way. He has dark brown hair that is curly and a little long, that brushes the nape of his neck. Skin like bright brass. Endless dark chocolate eyes, and long thick lashes. He is prettier than the Bible says He is, but He shows up like this for me because I like it. I know He doesn't really look like that.
We watch the undulating water together for awhile, until I say, "Thank you."
I don't have to tell Him that it's all this beauty I'm thankful for. I'm thankful for how personal it feels, like He made it all for me. And I know the idea of that, though it may sound arrogant, doesn't bother Him. He really does understand me.
We're quiet for awhile longer when He asks, "Do you want to talk about it?"
Being God He knows the answer. That I do, but I don't, but we'd have to do it eventually, wouldn't we?
"Maybe I'm just weak," I say.
He looks at me, neither agreeing, or denying it.
I sigh. "I don't know if I ever loved my body."
"I've always loved it."
The words are a little breathtaking. And it's funny, I expected Him to say that, but it surprises me anyway. I want to argue with Him. Say, "Yeah, but you made it." But I'm afraid of what He'd say. Of course, He says it.
That's when I bury my hands in my face. I want to say something, but nothing is there but His words echoing in my head, drowning out the sounds of water, a breeze, the soft commotion of insects at play in the distance. He said it was lovely. Fat, and out of shape. Stretch marks, and surgery scars. Crooked teeth, and the stretched out belly from all those babies.
Tears come, but I will them away.
"You always make me cry! I'm not ready to cry yet!"
He gives me that shy, but knowing smile of His. Embraces me in the warmth of His eyes. "You can talk about it."
I think it's a little cliche, but He's so compelling with all that love and no judgment. I lie back in the sand. It's as warm as a heating pad, but natural and wild, like I wish I could be again. Free. Just being sand. On a beach. Under the sun in a pocket of safety inside of me. A part I trust.
I sigh. "Okay," I say. "You already know this, but, I was seven."
"And my brother had all this pornography. Some magazines, and some novels."
"And I looked, and I read. And I guess I felt like Noah's kid who saw his nakedness. Cursed. But I didn't know I was cursed until a long time later."
"You are not cursed."
"But I felt that way."
He is quiet. I go on.
"I think it opened up something that was not meant to be opened when I was seven. I think it awakened something sleeping peacefully. Yeah, I know, that stuff about even children being sexual beings the psychologists tell you, and I'm not taking anything away from human sexuality. I'm not. I'm just sayin'. I learned things no child should know. And it hurt me."
And now I do cry, and He cries with me. But He wants me to tell Him more. So I do.
"And everything just went wrong from there. I didn't know what to do with all of that... sex, or sexuality, whatever it is... and I did a lot of wrong things with it. And... I'm so sorry, Jesus. And you know what, I still don't know what the hell to do with it. Sometimes I wish you'd take it away. All of it."
He strokes my hair as I lie there. "You know I have washed your sins away. Look at that water my baby, my heart, look at that ocean. It's so much smaller than My love. It is a less than a drop compared to my love. Nothing, compared to my love. And your sins, in all that love, cease to exist. My sweet, baby, it would make me so sad to take what I gave you away. It was a gift. It is still a gift, and I will not take it away."
Now I sit up, and I move my body, my heavy, punished, hated body next to His. As close as I can be, hip to hip. He circles one of His strong carpenter arms around me. He is so strong. So perfect, and He has His strong, perfect arm around me.
"Jesus, I can't wait until I lose weight to love myself. I have to do it now."
"Talk to Me."
"I just want to celebrate. Love the way You do, including myself. I mean, look at this place! It's so beautiful here. There's beauty all around me. All the time. I see it in the faces of my children. In my husband. I see it in the color pink, and purple, and outrageous "I just want to be seen" yellow." In my incredible friends. You made it all so beautiful. You didn't make me to hate anything about me, and I just want to be there with You. I want to see what You see, and love what You love."
"That's good, baby."
"I already am."
Again we're quiet, and I feel peace wrap around me like His arm did. I think I can do it now. I think I can.
So, He asks. "Will you give it to me?"
I want to. Mostly, but I feel oddly attached to it. I laugh, nervous and a little appalled at myself.
"I can't believe I didn't practically knock you over because I threw it so hard at you. I mean, I totally wanna let it go."
"Will you give it to me?"
"Yeah. I'm gonna. In a minute."
"Will you give it me?"
Each time he asks in a way that is slightly different than before. Never irritated. Simply asking, again, and again, each time with more love, or so it seems, because something happens to me. My heart began to sing a song, that only He and I know the words to. His questions stir me to song. Yes, I'll give it to Him.
I hold the ball of fear in my hand, the ball tangled with shame, guilt, hurt, and more than a little hate. Extended it toward Him until His hand touches mine, and covers the ball. My hand on the bottom. My distorted, twisted view of myself in the center. His hand covering it, grazing mine.
"So this is it," I say.
"I love it when You say 'yes,' to me."
"I love it when You trust Me."
"What's going to keep me safe?"
"Not what, Who. I will keep you safe. This didn't keep you safe. It kept you hidden, or over-exposed and exploited. I don't make Beauty to hide. I didn't make you to hide you, my beautiful baby."
A pause, and I still hold that ball of awfulness.
"You can trust Me," He says, but He doesn't insist I release it, and we stay there, for a long time, both of us equally holding the ball. I wonder if He will give up before me. I wonder if He will walk away, saddened by my inability to do what is so basic. But He doesn't move. Just sits there, quiet, holding it, His kind gaze holding me. Not pushing me. Not rushing me. Loving me. He doesn't even ask me for it again.
Finally, I release it. And my hand feels cool now that it's gone. Light. Empty. When was the last time I felt like that? Free? It's so strange.
"That unsettled feeling goes away," He says. He smiles at me, wide, and open, and happy. I made Jesus happy! So much so that He laughs, and tosses the ball into the ocean, where it sinks to where I don't know. I don't care! For as far as I can tell, loved swallowed it up.
Jesus slings His arm around me again, still laughing, and that goofy laugh is so contagious I laugh with Him, and nestle closer in His embrace.
For a long time we watch the water, and I wonder what I will do now. I've had that damned ball for so long... what will I do now?
He doesn't offer any solutions. No answers. I didn't expect Him to.
"Guess, I'll have to see," I say, "We'll take it a day at a time, huh, my Love?"
"A moment at a time. We'll take it slow. I'm not going anywhere."
"Me, either," I say. I believe it.
We spend the rest of our day--a very long, amazing day--talking quietly, intimately, together. We feel the sun kiss our skin. The breeze whispers it's sweet nothings over our bodies. We gaze for many hours, at each other, and at the beauty all around us.
And for a long, long time, at the rising and falling of the water.