Truth is freeing. But sometimes it comes with a price. That price? Truths totality. In other words, the realization of what truth means to yourself and too others. It is easy to assume that our truth is limiting; it only affects us. But that is simply not true. Who we are and what we believe, at our core, reflects in all we do; and it controls how others see us as well as how we see ourselves.
Sometimes, no matter how freeing the truth is. Shame lingers nearby, waiting to suck you into its darkened abyss. Most days the struggle to resist the old—well because —it’s the norm is exhausting. And if women were real with each other, regardless of their faith, they too would confess the very real struggle of body image. This struggle is not exclusive to one size. In fact, it affects women of all sizes and all ages. It is not limited to culture, race, or religion. It does, however, ensnare the majority of women.
What brought me down this controversial lane? Michelle did. No. I don’t know her, but her witty and truthful response to a man she dated resonated with me on multiple levels. She made me proud to be a woman.
The woman her former date described was me. I WAS THAT GIRL! I am ashamed to admit it. From early on, I learned my body was a tool, a weapon of sorts to seduce men. Not for pleasure, but for love. I desperately wanted to be loved. For many reasons, unknown at the time, I tied my true identity to my body image. A soul sickening belief that destroys little girls before they even start kindergarten. I was the “woman Folly” described in Proverbs. The girl who led men into the “depths of Sheol.” Married or single, it didn’t’ matter. What mattered was my desperate need to be loved, to be accepted, to be wanted, for all the wrong reasons. And for this, I was willing to accept anything. Do anything.
I carried this belief well into adulthood and motherhood. I would like to tell you that it didn’t affect my daughters. For the most part, both of them made better decisions than I did. However, this mindset still infiltrated their being. In many ways, they confused the genuine with the fake. It is only by God’s amazing grace they did not travel down the path I once did.
My marriage wasn’t off limits either. Funny, how that is. I mean I already got the guy, why believe otherwise? Because in the beginning, I believed I only won his heart by luring him with my body. True, he is partly responsible for that belief. Yet, twelve years into our marriage, I still tried to win his heart with my body. Not my mind. Not my heart. Just my body. I just couldn’t believe that he could love me for anything more.
The root of the problem was not just body image, but how I felt about myself as a human being. I was Madam Bovary.
Everything, even herself, was now unbearable to her. She wished that, taking wing like a bird, she could fly somewhere, far away to regions of purity, and there grow young again. (Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary)
It wasn’t until I had two spinal surgeries, exactly two-years ago that I began to change. Physically, I could not do anything, for just that long too! The healing process was painful, at times, it seemed never-ending. Even now the arthritis is painfully debilitating some days. I gained twenty-five pounds. On a small-to-medium frame that’s a lot!
Michelle discovered the secret. She figured out that real love began with herself. She accepted herself for who she is, not what she is supposed to be. She loved every part of herself; quirks, faults, and all. Including the extra thirty pounds she was sporting.
I guess when your forced to stop doing most things physical for a season, you have plenty of time to think. I was forced to figure out who I am. The real me. Inside and out. I searched my heart for weakness and strengths, for shame and humiliation, for truth and freedom. It took two-years for me to finally realize that I needed to love myself—all of me. The good, the bad, and the ugly. The skeletons of shame no longer bind me. Nor does the person I once was dictate who I am now. I truly believe Christ not only saved my wretched soul, but He changed who I am. It just took Him eighteen-years to weed through all my junk.
Despite myself, my husband is still here. Loving me through the seasons of motherhood and womanhood that causes our physical bodies to change—constantly. He still finds me desirable not because I have hips of a teenage girl, but because I am fully a woman. He loves my mind. My heart. And, my body. And for the first time in my life, I can embrace being a woman. NOT BEFORE:
I would like to tell you that it is easy. It’s not. Our culture makes this a very real struggle. However, every woman, young and old, makes it worth it. For my daughters and granddaughter it is worth it. For every young woman that walks into my classroom it is worth it. For that matter, for my sons and the male species it is worth the struggle and fight to change what we believe.
It is my deepest desire that women would change their idea of beauty and create a culture where we value our whole being instead of just our bodies. In this way, I believe we can become the women we are destined to be.
To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment. (Ralph Waldo Emerson)