I have muscular arms. I don’t say this to brag. In fact, they have always made me ever-so-slightly insecure. I met a boy at camp (seriously, who doesn’t have some version of that story) that I would e-mail almost every day with some sort of picture of something I had done on the days after camp was over, just to stay connected. One sunny June day, I sent him a photo my friend took of me hanging from the monkey bars. Only after he mentioned that I looked “super strong and kind of manly,” did I start to question myself hanging from those monkey bars. I loved that picture before I sent it. After he shared his opinion on the matter, I wished I had never sent it. And then I deleted it from my computer. And then he never spoke to me again.
Because of my man arms.
In recent years I’ve done a lot of at-home fitness programs, you know- the kind where you have to choose to press play and not press stop until it’s actually over and you’re a pile of sweat on the floor? For some reason I like that torture. Quite a few of them have a lifting component, and I have come to really be grateful for my arm strength. I have actually seen my muscles change, grow stronger, and most importantly, I have found it’s easier to pick up things in daily life, and hang with the boys when it comes to couch lifting and things of that sort. Because of these things, I have now come to enjoy what my friend Steph calls my “Michele Obama” arms. Sounds better than “manly,” that’s for sure.
Still, somewhere, I must be fighting a bit of insecurity because I always arm pop. You know exactly what I mean. In every photo, if you’re on the outside of the shot and you can’t hide your arms behind someone else or something else, you pop your arm. It’s like your arms way of saying, “I’m here, but I don’t want to make a statement. I don’t want to crunch up against my body because then you’ll see all my arm fat. Or if I hug someone with it, it will squash it and make it look twenty times bigger than it really is.”
I KNOW you know what I am talking about.
Judge me or join me people. Judge or join.
Just today I popped my arm for a photo with my niece. My perfect, little Ella, just now one year old- with the most round belly and most delicious thigh rolls. In this photo, she’s content to be just chilling in my arms, belly out, smile broad, squirming. I have found myself when babysitting her lately rubbing her little tummy, or holding her thighs with my hands, and thanking God for how perfect she is, because she is. And I know someday she may think something about her isn’t just right, and although she’ll be the only one who sees it, the voices in her head may be louder than the voices that comment on how tall and statuesque she is, and how stunningly blue her eyes are.
I don’t want to pop my arm forever, people. That nonsense is exhausting. And God doesn’t need me to pop my arm. In fact, he knows everything I’m trying to cover up, and no amount of my popping or shifting or flexing is going to do jack squat with God, and the reason that’s good news is because I need somebody to see through me to ME. Not the highlight reel me, but the REAL reel me. The cutting room floor stuff, the blood and guts.
Some things just aren’t glamorous, people. Like the fact that I’m a screwed up sinner who really needs the grace of God, who can do no single thing in the world to save herself or her “image.” The holy God of the universe knows that I have spent half of my life giving Him the middle finger by sinning against him and not caring.
Until. Until Jesus.
Until Jesus loosened my grip on my illusion of control and had me running, tears streaming down my face, right into his arms, broken. A hot mess, snot everywhere, desperate. The kind of woman you would see in a photograph and say, “that girl needs to get her crap together.”
Here’s the thing, I can’t.
I can’t get anything together. Only Jesus can.
When I un-pop my arm, when I let it rest at my side or (heaven forbid), wrap around my niece so hard that my arm skin splays out in multiple directions, or when I wave so furiously at a friend across the street that my chicken wings feel the breeze, I will have been living, I will have been giving myself for others instead of being so concerned about what this person or that person thinks about my arms.
Also…newsflash. They aren’t. They are too busy looking for their panty lines or belly pooch in a picture to care about my arms. And that makes me sad too. Not because I want them caring about my arms, but because I want them to start living for something bigger, just like I hope to.
Whatever they are, manly/Obama/rockstar/strong, God knows, and it’s not that He couldn’t care less, it’s that he cares too much to let me spend my life worrying about that stuff. So from here on out, I promise to un-pop, and to live. So come find me- with my arms dangling free, hugging with all my might, shaking whatever there is to shake without fear, and tag me. I DARE you. Tag me up one side and down the other, label me however you want. I am seen by God, and he sees through my popped arms and mascara, my shimmer lotion and my pedicures, and even my red hair dye that I love so much.
He sees Jesus.
And that’s all the approval I need.