I stood in a field much like the one I had pictured, the golden straws and green wisps mixing together into rippling waves of grass - little buds poking up here and there, some opening up to the sunshine. Licking cracked lips, I squinted into the wind.
I'd wistfully visualized this place as a young girl, but I never imagined I'd find it 60 years later. I thought it'd always live in my head. But now, as this warm breeze pawed at my silvery hair and the extra fabric of my dress fluttered around my bony frame, I could scarcely take it all in.
Closing my eyes, I thought of all the dream-come-trues I'd experience thus far in my life- dreams that I'd never known my heart possessed in the first place.
I never got married. My boy-crazed teenage years had faded into a life of living among friends and family, never to stumble upon "true love" as they called it. But, unlike my young mind had portrayed a single life to look, I was not perpetually lovesick or always longing for a man. I'd been lonely at times, yes, but the joy I could find in untethered devotion to the Lord was planted in my tear-soaked youth, sprouted in the younger years of my womanhood, and bloomed as time stretched on.
Placing my hands on jagged hips, I looked down at myself for the first time since arriving at this meadow. Slowly, and through the floral material that made up the front of my dress, I traced the dips and wrinkles of my skin pooling around my stomach. A light smile settled on my face. This was the same body that, as a young girl, had revolted me so strongly. As an eight-year-old sitting cross-legged in her second-grade classroom, I'd decided my belly was too rolly. The list of dislikes had grown until I could barely stand living in myself, and then, at 16, the disordered eating of my young teenage years had taken a sharp turn into an eating disorder.
I remembered, I remembered. It racked my family and my faith in God. My first round of treatment went well until I broke up with my boyfriend, after which I faltered and plunged back into the eating disorder. Nevertheless, my trust and knowledge of this Man who died in my place, Jesus Christ Himself, grew throughout this time, and my second round of treatment was different. I knew He loved me. I'd always known that, but this time, I held onto it. And finally, softly -and over the days, months, and years- His love seeped deep enough into my soul that it penetrated the part of me that hated my appearance so badly. The part that needed to control the food I ate to be okay.
That's when I began to walk in freedom, my weight and shape growing and changing with time, but Jesus' love for me AND my body giving me a reason to nourish myself even when I did not want to. That's not to say I never looked back, but here I was, 75 years old, and able to gaze behind me and see a life lived, by God's mercy, NOT centered on a need to look a certain way, but freed. I was free to walk in His good purpose for me, no matter what a mirror revealed to me or numbers blinked back at me on a scale. I'd found joy again.
Sighing, and back in the present moment, I began taking high steps through the grass. My ankle gave way, and I tumbled down, but through the pain of my aching bones hitting the dirt, I laughed. It would not be this way forever. Each birthday it became more apparent that my greatest dream would really come true someday. Seeing this field today, I could perceive only one thing missing. It was Jesus- in physical form, walking beside me. And that, my friend, is when my happily-ever-after will truly begin.