We were talking on a beach, when I noticed his problem. You see, every time a beautiful, scantily clad woman would walk by us on the beach, Dave’s neck just couldn’t seem to stop twisting and turning to gawk at these girls as they walked past him – and he continued to watch them all the way down the beach.
Let me tell you, I was mad about it!
“Seriously, Dave! I’m standing right here, and you can’t stop yourself from ogling these girls?”
“What are you talking about?” he replied in an innocent tone that I wasn’t buying for even a second.
At first, I seriously thought he was kidding, but I soon realized that this “girl watching” had been such a habit that he didn’t even know he was doing it. Of course, you may be thinking, Who cares? Big deal. He’s not hurting anyone.
Well, in this case, you would be wrong – he was hurting me!
Like so many women – and many men too, for that matter – I didn’t exactly possess the greatest self-esteem when it came to body image. The mirror was not my best friend. Because of this, every time Dave stared at other women in my presence, it felt as though someone was stabbing a knife in my chest. And speaking of chests, I could also hear a lie being told somewhere in my head, saying, If you looked better in your bathing suit, he would only be looking at you!
It was torture for me.
I was only 20 years old, and I so desperately wanted my new husband to only have eyes for me. Outwardly I was angry, but inwardly I wanted to just sit down and cry, because his actions drew all of my insecurities out of their hiding places and into the ugly open air. I went to bed that night trying to turn my mind to anything positive – anything but the shameful thoughts that my body didn't measure up to Dave’s dreams.
My last thought before my eyes fluttered shut were, Well, Jesus, at least the beach wasn’t full of topless girls. Thanks for protecting me from that!
Little did I know what was coming.
A few years later, Dave and I agreed to lead a mission trip where we would be sharing God’s love with people on the beaches in Sweden. A little known detail was shared with us as we pulled up to our first beach...half the women on the beach would be topless!
Are you kidding me?
The first day we were sitting in a beachside restaurant prepping for our day when it happened. The doorway was suddenly filled with three drop-dead gorgeous, long-legged, buxom beauties. Barbie and her two companions were actually real, live beings – and some kid out there forgot to put their bikini tops on!
The room was instantly quiet – you could have heard a pin drop. I glanced around our table to find that jaws were literally hanging wide open . . . and there may or may not have been drool pooling on the tabletop.
Then suddenly, I remembered my 26-year-old husband sitting next to me, and a rush of fear gripped my heart. I whipped my head around to look at him. The state in which I found him was almost sad – his head was bowed as low as it could possibly go without falling off altogether. I was instantly – albeit temporarily – relieved that his neck problem had not had a sudden flare-up in this exact moment.
To encourage him, I leaned over and sweetly whispered in his ear, “If you lift your head for even one second, you are a dead man!”
As Dave headed out to the beach, I headed to our hotel room to do some serious business with God.
I yelled out to him, “God, you know all of my fears and insecurities. I’ve told you countless times that this would be my worst fear. I’m afraid Dave will be sorry he married me when he could have someone else more voluptuous and beautiful.”
The truth is that as a little girl, I couldn’t wait to grow up and look like Barbie. Instead of transforming into Barbie, I stopped growing and maxed out at 5 feet and 1 inch tall – I was forever destined to be more like Barbie’s kid sister, Skipper.
As I continued my rant, I felt a small whisper collide with my anger. “Ann, can you trust me?”
“No! I can’t trust you! That’s pretty obvious right now!”
But as I continued my tirade, the question kept coming to my mind over and over again. It was relentless: “Ann, can you trust me?”
Finally, exhausted by my fear, anger, and tears, I fell on my knees before God and cried out,
“God, what choice do I have? I will trust you! Please help me. I’m clinging to you as my helper and guide . . . as my Father. I need you not only to help me get through this, but to help Dave get through this too.”
A sense of resolution and strength began to fill my heart, enough that I was able to push the anxiety down a bit. I again tried to take hold of the reminder that Jesus loved me – and that he loved Dave as well – more than I could ever hope for or dream.
I don’t want to sum everything up as if a lifelong problem of fear and anxiety suddenly dissipated after only a short prayer – no, these problems continued, but I had the peace and hope to face them.
That trip was a turning point of sorts. For the first time, Dave began experiencing a real level of success with his neck problem, and for the first time, I started realizing that my worth does not originate, cannot be increased, and certainly is not limited in any way by my physical appearance.
I became more aware than ever of my truest, deepest identity:
I am a daughter of the King of kings and Lord of lords – and he is a very proud and protective Father. I have been made and equipped to carry out a plan that my heavenly Father uniquely crafted for my specific life. I have been made with a purpose and destiny that both satisfy my soul and reflect the love of Christ to the world.
As I look back on that afternoon some 30 years ago, I chuckle at the insignificance of my dilemma. In retrospect, if that were the most difficult thing I had to deal with, my life would be pretty easy.
Since that trip, I’ve been faced with actual life-and-death issues related to my own health, the health of our babies, and the death of my very best friend and sister at the age of 45.
Time and time again in each of these situations, God asked me the same question he asked me years earlier at that topless beach: “Ann, can you trust me?”
It’s never been easy, but I have discovered that yes, I can trust Him. He is always there. He always loves me deeply. He carries me, and He never leaves me. He comforts me and encourages me to keep my eyes on him – I guess you can say that my eyes tend to wander when uncertainty or crises arise.
It’s my own neck problem.
God is calling us to stop leaning on our own understanding of our versions of the ways we think He should lead our lives.
Instead, he keeps asking us, “Will you trust me?”
The invitation is to the complete surrender of allowing him to work His plan – carried out His way – in our lives.
The safest – and also the scariest – place on earth is right in the middle of his plan for you.
Sometimes He does His most miraculous work in the middle of our greatest fear.
Will you trust him with your disappointments?