Thou art near, O Lord;
and all thy commandments are truth.
— Psalm 119:151
Good friends invited us to their cabin on a lake. There would be boating, swimming and fun in the sun. I planned to wear my long winter coat or maybe a choir robe. Not really. I knew you have to have a swimsuit on a weekend at a lake. With an hour to go before the stores closed, and on my birthday to boot, I went shopping.
The swimsuit I had was so old that the hot new song when I bought it was “Do the Hustle.”
That’s what I had to do in the fitting room, attempting to funnel my aging East German border guard bod into the four square inches of fabric for which they want to charge you $90.
I did some funky disco steps, trying to wriggle in to a modest two-piece jobby with the little swim-skirt down below, and the little swim-shirt up top.
Do you know how powerfully stretchy these swimsuit fabrics are? The real cause of global warming! They’re clearing whole rainforests for the rubber and spandex for these things. We need a renewable resource alternative. You know, like ETHANOL swimsuits. Yeah: cornhusks for the supportive bustline, cornsilk for a little padding. . . .
But I digress. Somehow I tugged on the little swim-skirt, trying not to notice in the mirror that I looked like a ballerina hippo in a bad dream in a Disney cartoon.
I pulled the top down over my head. Floopety floop! A tight roll of swimsuit fabric formed under my armpits.
There was no way it would roll back up so I could get it off. There was no way it would roll down to cover what it was supposed to cover. It was not going to budge. It had undergone dressing-room fusion.
I looked like a topless, pink Pillsbury Dough Girl with a thick rubber band under my arms, just above two strangely contorted and displaced . . . you know. . . .
Predictably, at that moment, the fitting-room door slammed open.
A lady gawked. You can imagine where her eyes fell.
“Oh,” she said. “There’s someone in here.”
With an unforgettable look combining horror, amusement, shock, disgust and pity, she backed out and slammed the door . . .
. . . leaving me a topless, pink Pillsbury Dough Girl with shattered self-esteem.
I already struggled ENOUGH with how I looked in a swimming suit that was fully ON.
“Attention, shoppers,” a cheery voice interrupted. “The store will close in 10 minutes. Please take your purchases to the cashier.”
Somehow, I wriggled out of that boa constrictor of a top, and tried on the remaining candidates. A one-piece looked the least bad. I hurried out with it.
Did the cashier know what happened? I felt very embarrassed, very fat, and very old.
Much to my surprise, she smiled, and said, “This is so cute. This will look good on you.”
Nice try. But I was still crushed.
I started up the car and sat there in the darkness. Emotion swept over me. I went into Major Pity Party Mode. I’m fat! I’m old! What a bad birthday! I’m going to look horrible on this trip. I’d better bring a big towel, and wrap it around my own face.
Tears welled up. My throat got very tight.
Backing up, though, I saw in the rear-view mirror that the license plate on the car parked behind me said:
I AM HERE
Ohhhh. I knew who “I” is. The Great I Am.
The song playing on Christian radio at that moment was “Be Near” by Shane Barnard:
Be near, oh God / Be near, oh God / Your nearness is to us our good. . . .
Ohhhh!!! God is here! He is near! He doesn’t want me to feel so bad about myself.
Didn’t He promise to always be with me?
Why hadn’t I taken my feelings to Jesus, first? Like the tiny bit of material in that swimsuit, I could never cover myself by . . . myself. I need Him.
Sigh. A different kind of shame colored my face.
I rasped tearfully, “Oh, Lord. . .”
. . . and as soon as I’d said it, I felt release. I knew everything would be OK. This time, the tears flowed in a good way.
He saw. He knew. He felt my shame. He would make it go away. He would make me feel valued and loved. He would make me feel better. He always did.
Then I started to chuckle. The look on that poor lady’s face. . . . I wished I could be a little bird to see how she would tell the story when she got back home.
Good. I’m glad I could give somebody a laugh. It’s my Christian mission!
I may be fat. I may be old. I may look ridiculous in a swimming suit.
But I have an all-powerful, ever-present, perfectly loving God.
And He is here. Always.
He knows I’m a Pillsbury Dough Girl.
He thinks I’m pretty cute, anyway. †
By Susan Darst Williams | www.RadiantBeams.org | Girls Will Be Girls | © 2020