It’s dark still. The night’s bugs are chirping, the birds not yet awake. The rainy season storm blows around me as I sit outside, taking in it’s breeze, protected by the thin fabric of mosquito netting that brushes over my skin. A reminder that I’m so far from home.
I am wide awake at this hour because of the time difference, the fact that I went to bed at 6:30 p.m. and because at some point the mosquitos have burrowed their hungry proboscis’ into my skin, leaving their mark of red, raised bumps all over my body. I itch.
I have nothing but time to think and reflect in these wee hours of the morning…
So many places my mind could go – the past, the present, the future.
But at 5:00 on this Cambodian morning, I will settle on the simple lesson of yesterday…
Mark and I signed up for massage packages. A very affordable luxury in this land. We opted for body scrub, body wrap, body massage and facial. A three hour experience in pampering.
The methods were unfamiliar. The setting and procedures, very intimate. And for three hours, in harmony with the soft background music playing, I found my mind forming analogies in that beautiful experience.
As we entered our private tree house, it was obvious that we were in new territory complete with its own set of customs. We were asked, or more accurately motioned (as language was a barrier), to strip down to our bare skin. No robe or blanket to cover us until we laid down on the table. No shame. Merely naked reality. Very literally.
Only the first time that we stood bare before strangers did this feel peculiar. As the hours went on, it merely felt freeing. Simple. Natural.
I can only explain this within the context of all that happened in those next 180 minutes of quietness.
The body scrub began with an orange exfoliating agent, much like what I would use in my daily shower, but with a heartier consistency. More textured. More powerful.
Each limb and body part was scrubbed meticulously, yet gently, rubbing away any dryness. Between fingers and toes, every joint, every place covered by skin. Full exposure met with healing touch.
I felt my body relax under the care of trained hands that knew what they were doing, where to go next. I could trust the process, knowing that it was only meant for my good, my betterment.
When the scrubbing was complete and every inch treated, I was asked to go outside and shower. Once again, a new and unfamiliar experience. I felt myself cower slightly as I made my way to the shower in the trees, a part of nature itself in my most natural state possible. There was a part of me that wanted to hide, to cover. But as the hot water hit my skin and I watched every trace of orange exfoliant trickle down the drain, there was a freedom I can’t explain. I felt alive in a way I never knew before. I could have stayed there forever.
But we weren’t done yet.
The body wrap was next. A detoxifying and rehydrating that would happen within the confines of the cellophane that covered me. A time of still silence as the ointment applied did its work. My eyes covered with a soothing cloth, trusting the hands that had just mummified my body.
Where naturally my body would rebel and jumpy legs would ensue, I found myself leaning in to the silence, the calm stillness. I knew I would enjoy the end result if I didn’t fight the process.
At the appropriate time, I was asked again to go and shower. This time with head held high and nothing but the sweet anticipation of the freedom and warm water running down my back.
Clean again, I scampered back into the treehouse, chilled by the breeze that hit the water dripping off of me. I welcomed the warm towel that awaited me and invited me to the next step.
Massage. Ah, massage. Tiny, Cambodian hands with unbelievable strength, yet unmatched gentleness. Releasing tight muscles, administering warm and soothing oils, relaxing every fiber of my being. Healing hands. Experienced hands. Patient and purposeful hands that had no intention but good.
And now it was time for the facial. Perhaps the most intimate experience of all. Such care taken from forehead to neck. Small gentle movements, almost maternal in nature. The soft touch combined with the detailed precision, as if wiping tears from my eyes or food from my chin. And though my eyes were closed, I could feel her eyes on me, not missing a thing. The most personal attention, as if she were reading my face to find out my story. Memorizing every line and imperfection with acceptance and not judgment, like a friend instead of a stranger.
Throughout the entire experience all I could imagine was the analogy between what was happening and the hands of God Himself in our lives. The intimacy. The cleansing. The nakedness of our souls before Him and His precious care of them. His strong and gentle hands massaging things out of and into our lives. The parental nurture of His heart towards ours. The eyes of a friend seeing our flaws and loving us in spite. His very personal touch on our very real need.
A beautiful and memorable experience. A reminder of the very intimate love of God for us. For me. For you.
And now the songs of birds are replacing the chirps of insects. The wind has died down and the sun is rising. Dark is melting into light.
A new day has begun…
1 John 3:1 – See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!