She was big. No question about it. Size 12 feet. Broad hips. Big belly. Generous breasts. Wide shoulders. Big smile too. Even her voice was big, her laughter full and rich, capable of filling an auditorium. Some things fit, most didn't.
She searched for chairs without arms, hard to find in most places where the chairs cut into her back and sides. She eyed every couch before she sat down, gauging its worthiness and her ability to rise gracefully from it. She asked for seat belt extensions and the window seat when she flew so her bulk wouldn't intrude too much on her neighbor.
Once, when she traveled to Europe, she was stuck in the middle of five seats in the middle section of the plane. The whole long trip, she sat with her arms folded across her stomach and tried not to take up too much room. She woke up, every now and then, and from the looks of the people around her, she knew her snore was big enough to drown out the sound of the movie.
She took up space. Lots of it. She was too big for most rooms, she thought, and so she found ways to be on the edges, not in the center, as if people wouldn't notice.
She was big. Too big for most clothes, especially the pretty ones with sparkles and beads and ribbons. She hadn't worn regular shoes for years, and the thought of her feet in dancing shoes left her laughing.
She was big. Bigger than almost anyone she knew. Her hug was huge, two strong arms that could wrap around and hold a person close and be warm, safe, whole. She was a great big pillow to cry into, one that held all the tears until you were done crying. Her friends would tell you she had a heart as big as the prairies.
She told big stories: outrageous stories about old ladies who ran away from home and went to summer camp or sent postcards from their travels around the country. She told jokes, funny ones and stupid ones and ones that made you think for a whole day before you laughed.
There was a secret the big woman knew, something she didn't tell anyone. She didn't even tell herself very often because it hurt to hear the words. "I'm too big," she'd whisper, "too big for God. Even God doesn't have arms big enough to hold me." And then that great and big and gentle woman would cry. And her tears were just like her- big and gentle and they washed over her face and splashed down into her lap.
A giant hole in her heart opened one day. Nothing filled it. Nothing healed it. It just ached. And there wasn't much she could do about it. She thought for a long time that it didn't matter. It was really okay that God was too small. But lately it wasn't okay. Lately she was no longer satisfied to let God off the hook. Either God was God, and capable of being big enough for her, or they could just call it quits right here and now.
"You're not too much for me," God said. "Where did you ever get that idea?"
"I don't fit," the woman said. "It's not just my body size. I just don't seem to fit into the picture."
"Tell me more," God coaxed.
"Haven't you ever noticed," she asked, "that in all the pictures I'm the one just out of camera reach? My body
doesn't all make it into the picture."
"But my life doesn't fit either. It's not like the lives of my friends. I don't fit inside a marriage. I don't fit into my work. I'm too big for people who want to follow all the rules."
"And what's wrong with that?" God asked. "Who told you that you had to fit those pictures?"
"But you said---" she started to say.
"I did no such thing. Never. Now, granted, some significant people in your life may have claimed I demanded that, but I'm here to tell you that I never did."
"So why don't I fit?" the woman wailed.
"Oh but you do!" laughed God. "Oh, my dear, you do!"
The woman folded her arms across her chest and frowned. "You're not taking this very seriously," she complained. "You have no idea how it feels."
"Oh, don't I?" God chided. "You, my love, are as grand and glorious as all the Rocky Mountains, as huge and wide as the oceans. You are as big as a house-rattling storm that shakes the teeth of the people inside. You are like a giant earthquake and as dazzling as fields swamped by flowers. You are the embodiment of outrageous, silly, lavish grace. You, of all people, you are not puny."
She studied God, puzzled. "So, what you're saying is..."
"What I'm saying, dear heart, is that with you I do things in a big way." And God chuckled.
The woman chewed her lip. "It's not enough," she said finally.
"Only because you've been hiding outside the frame of the picture," said God. "Look, people pack up their cars and travel for miles to see real mountains, not those puny little hills on the East Coast that they pretend are mountains. No, I'm talking about the big ones! The Rockies. The Sierras. Big mountains like Rainier and Shasta. These people drag along their cameras and their video recorders and they spend all their time taking pictures. And you know what?"
"They go home. They drop off the pictures to be developed and they do the laundry. A week or two later, they remember to pick up the pictures. They shuffle through them, try to remember where they were the day that picture was taken, and who took this strange shot? They complain about the color. And the flatness of the picture is nothing like what they saw those few weeks ago. Then they toss the envelope of pictures into a drawer and forget about them."
"So?" she prompted.
"So, they never saw the mountains, all those vast giant beauties I created. They settle for puny reproductions and wonder why everything else in their lives is so flat and stale. You are like those mountains, huge and grand and glorious. People who see you only through the camera's lens will not know your beauty. How could they? They have forgotten how to see."
God raised an eyebrow and looked at her. "Now you, you in your body, can you forget how big you are?" God asked.
She looked impatient. "No, you know that! How could I forget? It's always there, always a part of how I move around in the world."
"Do you ever feel small? Flat? Puny?" God was grinning at her.
"Hell, no!" She stuck out her tongue.
"Then you're seeing the real beauty, not some camera's reproduction. And there are no edges to the picture. You always fit."
"Yeah, but, . . ." her voice trailed off.
"I'll tell you a secret. I like doing things in a big way, so people will notice, pay attention, wake up. You're one of my best surprises." God reached for her and spun her around and danced a wicked tango with her.
"You know," the woman said when the dance was over and a huge moon hung over the horizon, "you're a lot taller than I thought you were."
© July 1997 Shannon O’Donnell