by Joanie Butman
Where do I begin to describe the two-week Seinfeld episode I just lived? Florida is a study in contrasts. I’m not sure what was more amusing – the shenanigans of the South Beach spring breakers or my in-laws ‘Depend-able’ cocktail table in Marco Island. I went from a town with no rules (that I could see) to receiving a parking violation for my BICYCLE from the condo board at my parents’ complex, which has rules governing anything that remotely resembles fun. Collectively, over the years, our family has managed to break them all and even be the impetus for initiating a slew of new ones. We’re rabble rousers of the worst sort, with infractions ranging from playing catch on the lawn to entering the pool without showering. I always laugh at the strict swim diaper rule because the ‘noodlers’ probably need them more than the occasional visiting toddler.
Regardless, arriving in South Beach I empathized with Dorothy landing in OZ because “I definitely was not in Kansas anymore.” I earned the distinction of having the most skin covered than anyone else. My skirted, granny swimsuit didn’t cut it in this land of thongs and banana hammocks. I left with two observations:
Whatever you have looks better brown.
Most people look better with clothes on, and ironically those with flawless bodies AREN’T necessarily the ones prancing around scantily clad.
More than once I thought to myself, “People, have you no shame?” No, they don’t, and why should they? Because they haven’t bought into the myth that you have to be a size 0 to be attractive? Inadvertently, amidst the South Beach craziness, I stumbled on a truth God has been trying to teach me for as long as I can remember. In fact, it was on an aerial banner trolling the beach all week that read, “The real you is beautiful.” I had to wonder if the bikini-selling sponsors of that sign had walked the beach recently.
On a physical level, I fall in the camp of those who look better tan and fully dressed. However, even though I need to be constantly reminded, I can be comfortable baring my soul (as opposed to my bottom) without shame or fear of rejection or condemnation. Though it is an unusual place to be spiritually fed, my Lenten lesson from South Beach and Marco is Christ’s constant reminder, “There isn’t anything you can do or not do that will make Me love you any more or any less regardless of the size of your bathing suit or the number of violations you incur. If you could just learn to see yourself the way I see you, you could ease up on yourself and live life more freely and abundantly. Stop trying to talk Me out of loving you. The only one you’re convincing is yourself. Instead of trying to talk Me out of it, listen to Me talking you into it.”
The best part of South Beach was the free food and drinks in the club lounge. I always get myself into trouble under those circumstances, eating and drinking way more than necessary as if “But it’s free” is a viable excuse for overindulging. Too bad I don’t embrace that attitude more often when visiting Christ’s spiritual club lounge. He presents a smorgasbord of His love and mercy free for all, but we still have to choose to come to the table. This is one instance where “I want more” is a good thing. Still, He doesn’t force feed anyone anymore than the accommodating staff in South Beach. Yes, they put out a beautiful spread every day, but I still had to choose to avail myself of it. And so it is with God. His love and mercies are new every morning.
I’m sure some of the characters I observed in South Beach were desperate for attention because no one walks around practically naked unless they want to be noticed. Sadly, the kind of attention they receive will never satisfy the deep human longing for affirmation. Or if it does, it will be temporary and shallow at best. How blessed am I that I already have the attention and affirmation of the only One who matters. You can too if you so choose.