Gloriously Imperfect

It should be on prescription, a few days in the sunshine and a time to recharge the batteries.

But it’s not on prescription and I was spending hard earned money on a retreat with Famous Christian Author, and the promise of God’s presence too.

Famous Christian Author would be good, he always was. Which is why the Spanish retreat was sold out. But he was worth it. And he was equally worth it in private – just between ourselves in our small retreat group gathering in the sunshine as he’d been on big public stage in the pouring rain back in England. An authentic man who exposes just enough of himself to show the glory of God through his ministry.

God was definitely there too that week. (Although being absent isn’t really an option for the One who is everywhere at all times!) He (God) was well able to break in and catch my attention, especially when I would pause long enough to listen. I needed reminding of his love and affirmation, sadly all too easy to forget in the hurly burly of life. Thank heaven for retreats!

One particularly profound spiritual moment was when I was waking up after an afternoon nap. I’d been snoozing in the shade by the swimming pool under a well-placed, thankfully large palm tree.

There is a moment that occurs on sunny, poolside holidays– that delicious moment when you emerge from the warmest of slumbers and tune back into the world around. That gradual moment when you become aware of sounds and voices drifting in to your consciousness as a gentle warm breeze plays over your sun warmed body. A gentle remerging from the depths of slumber through the levels of consciousness back into reality. Such a delicious moment is even more cruelly spoilt when, there is the cruellest of reminders that dozing in public has innate risks as you wipe a pool of dribble from your cheek. Not good.

As I woke up on this balmy afternoon, I wasn’t just faced with the ignominy of dribbling but a gentle but persistent breeze whispering across my legs that felt unnervingly close to the base of my backside. Because if I can feel a breeze, then my carefully placed sarong has wafted off and exposed rather more flesh than I‘d planned.

There was way too much threatening to escape from my tankini and my colourful cotton ‘coverall’ (ha!) was fluttering on the floor several feet away. The indignity of it all.

Turning slowly, not wanting to draw attention to myself, I managed a surreptitious crawl across the flagstones to recapture some dignity.

And as I blush at the memory, that familiar still small voice asks me how much does it matter if people around me realise I’m not a ‘perfect 10’ (or 12 or 14 for that matter). How hard do I work to keep up a public illusion of being pretty well packaged, sorted and together, inside and out? No one is really fooled. For if I can’t be ‘real’ then what’s it all about?

I’d love to have thighs that look more like sleek burnished wood, but in realty look more like melon peelings, but then I wouldn’t be me. And I’d also have to care enough to do something positive about it, like more exercise. And I don’t.

So I am me in literally all my ‘fullness’ and God still loves every single gram of me.

That’s not an excuse for abusing my body, because good health and being ‘fit for purpose’ is important on every level. But there is a healthy mid-ground between being too preoccupied with external appearances and not giving a hoot to the point of neglect.

I love the line in the Biblical account of David when Samuel is sent to choose the new king of Israel. He rejects the line-up of tall, athletic, eminently suitable older brothers and chooses the unassuming one whom God has destined – The youngest shepherd boy David by saying ‘God judges persons differently than humans do. Men and women look at the face; God looks into the heart.” ( 1 Samuel 16:7)

It is my ‘heart’ – that concerns God, not the perfections or imperfections of a human body. When my heart is flabby that’s when I really need to be concerned. And who is to say what is physically beautiful anyway!

The people I was sharing my week didn’t care what I looked like, if I wasn’t a model of human perfection. In fact, perfection is way too scary. Strange to think… the one man who ever lived who was indeed perfect, annoyed an awful lot of important people and confused a lot of other people too. Perfection can be a tough call.

Being normal and real is authentic. I will make the best of what I have and as I grow older I realise the bits that would be airbrushed from magazine front covers are the things that really celebrate who we are. Facial lines from living long enough to gather wisdom, wrinkles from smiling, hands with age spots that have worked hard helping others to live well, bodies that produce children or being busy working to fulfil our destiny. All signs of real beauty not imperfection.

While I need to be real, there are of course the hidden things that God sees deep in my heart. Those include the insecure bits, pain and grief for people whom I have lost, the results of hard times that engender vulnerability. Those too are the tough experiences that make me who I am and gave me opportunity to grow in character and resilience. Hidden wounds and scars that I continue to work through, with Jesus. Such wounds and scars are not to be despised but sure reminders of battles waged and won.

Scars, wrinkles, melon flab and unauthorised exposed flesh – all making me who I am in the glorious imperfection of a person who is Real and loved and precious and valued, called and chosen by my Creator.

Just like every other imperfect body around that particular swimming pool, or even reading this!