When God calls you beautiful

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Her answer surprises me. She doesn’t stay silent. She doesn’t think about all the flaws she sees in herself. She seems, in that moment, not even to notice them. The beloved in the Song of Solomon, hearing her lover’s voice, not only listens but echoes her beloved’s declarations of her beauty.

He likens her to a garden filled with beauty and fragrance and pleasure (4:12-15). She receives the image and uses it to pray, “Awake, north wind, and come, south wind! Blow on my garden, that its fragrance may spread abroad. Let my lover come into his garden and taste its choice fruits.” (4:16)

He tells her her mouth is like the best wine (7:9). She doesn’t draw back with an embarrassed, “Oh, darling!” She doesn’t assume he can’t really mean what he says, all the while thinking of her less-than-sweet-smelling morning breath. She receives it – and speaks it back to him – asking that he enjoy her in whom he delights. “May the wine go straight to my lover.”

When I draw back from God’s expression of pleasure in me, I push away His arms. I  welcome His ready love, let myself become all His, by accepting His naming of me: Holy. Beautiful. Desired.

Letting God tell me who I am is part of offering my body to Him. I am His, and He has made me alive with His life, holy with His holiness, and pleasing to Him. And He gets to tell me who I am because He has re-deemed me.

“To deem is to have an opinion about something and, particularly, to render a judgment about it. I might, for example, deem a cause worthy of my support. To redeem, then, can be understood as rendering a new judgment about something that has previously been judged. To rename, to redefine, to assign a new value or identity.” (Greg Paul, Close Enough to Hear God Breathe, p. 104)

How would it be, the next time God whispers that you’re beautiful, instead of turning away in embarrassment or shame, wondering who he might be talking to because it couldn’t possibly be you, to look back into His tender eyes and whisper, however shyly, “Will you come and enjoy the beauty you’ve planted in me? And will you spread it wide for others to enjoy too?”

Holy Spirit wind, come blow on my garden

That its fragrance may spread abroad.

May my lover come into His garden

And taste its choice fruits.

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Want to hear God whisper what He thinks of you? Try soaking in these snippets of His love letter. How might you pray them back to Him? Song of Solomon 2:10-13; Ephesians 1:4; 5:27

Offering our bodies: the hands-on God

 

 

 

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I watch the hands that bathe the baby. Strong. Skilled. Gentle. The newborn relaxes into being held, lets herself be stilled. For the first few moments she is alert, gazing up into the face of the midwife, then her eyes close and she rests. Reflexively, she sucks. Instinctively, her little arms wrap around the bigger ones which hold her so tenderly. But mostly she stills and rests, secure in the hands which submerge her in the water until only her tiny nose peeks out.

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.” (Isaiah 43:2)

Our God is a hands-on God. He didn’t merely speak us into being. He shaped us, breathed into us. He carries us, holds us by our right hand, lifts us up in his arms. Our God touches, taking children on his lap, placing his hands on them and blessing them; touching the untouchable leper, Jairus’ dead daughter, the man born blind.

I struggle to get my head around the intimacy of this God who touches, to relax into being held, and find myself in the company of the psalmist:

“You hem me in – behind and before; You have laid your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.” (Ps 139:5-6)

The hands which have cradled, crafting the detailed intricacy of our bodies from the moment of conception, hold us still. When the water is up to my nose, I need to know this. The psalmist did too. In the most horrifically traumatic experience of his life, when he felt more like a worm than a human, rejected by people and deserted by God, he turned to the midwifing God.

“Yet it was you who pulled me out of the womb, you kept me safe on my mother’s breast.” (Psalm 22:9)

Again desperate, he cries out to God as the one who cut his umbilical cord at his birth:

“It was you who cut me from my mother’s womb.” (Ps 71:6)

He knows himself as vulnerable, as utterly helpless, as at his birth. If this life-protecting, midwifing God does not intervene, he will die.

He knows this too: the One who guarded his life at birth guards him still. Feeling desperately his own helplessness, he stakes all his hope on the wisdom and gentle protection of this God who touches and tends.

I can only offer my body a living sacrifice when I remember that it’s into these strong, skilled, gentle hands that I’m being called to give myself. The truth is, these hands are already holding me. My offering merely acknowledges what is, lets me rest in these safe hands instead of trying to do for myself what I cannot do.

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Want to soak further in the joy of belonging to this hands-on God? Choose a phrase from one of the verses above, or explore the others listed below, and then, asking God to enable you to rest in His hands, watch this 5 minute clip of the baby resting in the hands of the midwife.

Gen 2:7; Ex 19:4; 33:22; Deut 1:31; 33:12, 27; Psalm 18:16; Ps 95:4-7; SS 2:6; Is 41:10; 46:3-4; 63:9; Mark 10:16; John 10:28-29; 1 Pet 1:5; Rev 1:7

If you’d like to join us in a six week study of the character of this One who calls us to offer ourselves to him, you can download your free copy here.