"Am I lovely? Do you like what you see in me?"
The way this question is answered makes a WORLD of difference. And it needs to be answered in every facet of our lives - when we are little girls, wearing crowns or hats and twirling in dresses... when we are going through puberty and everything about us feels odd and not together, when we are married, when we have kids... When our hair turns gray and wrinkles start appearing, I will still be haunted by this question.
It's not superficial either. I would like to know that I am lovely (or worth loving) covered in dirt and torn clothes as much as in a dress and high heels. And the reason why this question haunts us is because its answer tells us whether we are in the image of God or not. God is beautiful, we as females are created beautiful in His image... for us to FEEL that we are not lovely it means we won't BELIEVE that God's image, God's special touch, is upon us.
I don't remember ever having a good answer to that question until Paul came into my life. I'm also naturally pessimistic so I don't know if I would remember if I did. But I know that I never just got a straight compliment as a child, as a 12 year old... It was always, "Oh you have pretty eyes... but you need exercise...." Or, "That dress would look so nice on you if you were skinnier." This came from well intentioned women who were close to me - aunts, cousins, grandmas. I was never thin enough to just BE pretty, there was a stipulation behind it that answered my question NO. And I definitely didn't hear ANYTHING from the men in my life. My uncles were a lot kinder to me in that they complimented me without telling me what I need to fix, but the main voice I needed to hear from was my dad - and he's a very passive man. He told me he loved me, He told me he was proud of me, and he's always shown me support unconditionally. I'm sure that when I was younger and my parent's marriage was more together, that he would say, "Oh you look beautiful" as I was in a dress ready for an event... But after I turned 9, I didn't hear it from him at all - and I never heard him tell my mother that after either. It doesn't really bother me, because I have a great relationship with my dad and I know that these kinds of words are out of his comfort zone. I just think that his passiveness against my mom's destructive forward-ness really hurt.
I struggle in my relationship with my mom because I want to love her and be loved by her without her constantly tearing into me. And at times I can shrug it off and yet there are times when it's too high a price to pay to try to have a relationship with her - when it affects my parenting, when I start getting depressed, when I feel a false sense of guilt and shame and I don't want my unborn kid anymore and it has to do with what she says to me... I've called the quits time and time again and I am more emotionally stable during the "off" seasons then the "ons".
But you know what? I have been hurt by church women, by other adult women who have also torn into me or torn me apart as a bonafide adult. And in every instance when a woman has gone out of her way to wound me, there was always a passive man standing by that could've corrected the situation but preferred not to pick a fight. I thank Paul for his strength and his willingness to fight - even if I have suffered the consequences for standing beside him - at least I know he will fight for me.
So in this horrible question that haunts every female in creation at some point or another in their lives (ask women who went through or considered a divorce, girls that got dumped, little girls that were picked on... EVERY women gets haunted by this question at some point) we tend to get our butt kicked because we live in a fallen world, and there are 3 consequences that we deal with as a result:
1.- Adulteries of the heart. We indulge in so many things to satisfy us instead of turning to our creator and filling ourselves with His love and His word. It can be as severe as eating disorders and as light as romance novels... It's an adultery of the heart against God because we use it to numb the pain, to escape, when what we really need to do at that point is come to Him. I'm not saying romance novels are bad, but if you prefer to read a cheap, sultry romance novel at night instead of actually making love to your husband (because HE isn't answering this haunting question right) - then it's adultery. Me personally, I struggle with day dreaming - and sleeping. When I'm devastated or torn or upset it's easier for me to lay down and just imagine things being different than it is for me to pray about the situation and ask God for help. I also stay asleep, in bed, as long as I can - and if I HAVE to get up, I turn to a computer game or a movie - anything to take me out of reality. I "check out". I learned this mechanism since I was 15, after incidents with my mother, and I do this now if I'm faced with a trial or a choice that I don't know how to answer immediately. I know when I'm committing an adultery of the heart - when I don't want to face reality or even live in it, and I'm giving my husband and my kids only a fourth of my attention and my effort. I became a lot more aware of this as I read this chapter in Captivating. I don't want to continue to commit adultery of the heart because it's like taking pain killers for a bad heart problem - I may feel better temporarily, but the issue is not fixed. I need to have my heart before God and be healed... and yet I'm afraid of even starting because I'll bawl so much I don't WANT to get everything out before God and look at it and face it. I'm struggling to type now!
The next two are either/or:
a) Destructive and Controlling personalities: We women sometimes get so hurt we stop being vulnerable, and we stop being trusting. We have to control everything or we'll destroy it with our bear hands if we cannot manipulate every detail. We don't even bother asking the question "Am I lovely" anymore because it doesn't matter - we get things our way anyways! I think the women that hurt me the most were right here, I realize now I can only imagine how hurt they have been that they felt I was such a threat because I wasn't under their thumb. I think this is where my mom is. And I clearly remember, last summer when I was at my absolute lowest (and these women were GLOATING over my misfortune, I exaggerate not) that God told me, "I need to do open heart surgery on you, because I don't want you to become like them." I didn't understand then, I couldn't fathom why in the world would I be like them when I despised them so much! But I see it now - oh how easily I wanted to be in control of every detail of my life, how dissatisfied I was with Paul if he didn't do or act or think the way I wanted him to, how much I wanted to control my household.... and how little if no room I left for faith and trust in God. I didn't trust God to come through, I didn't stand by faith - I took care of it myself. And if I couldn't, I cried in anger or frustration and would not deal with God for months. I see now that it was only a matter of time before I became them and started trying to manipulate and control in my workplace, in my church, among my friendships (if I had any left) and not just in my home. How much I could've broken Paul's spirit and tore him to size if the Lord would've let me succumb to my hurt. I was becoming everything I ever criticized in my mom, I would've been to some other poor, believing soul what these 2 church ladies were to me. Eventually. I know now that this is where they are at, and it helps me to forgive them and see them through a lens of compassion - but I don't want to be here. Because in being this way, I lose trust in God, and He says that "without faith it is impossible to please God." I want to please Him, He's the main and first person I am asking, "Am I lovely?" and I desperately want Him to say YES - even after looking into my heart and my soul. And in being critical, controlling, and destructive with our personalities, we are NOT bringing glory to God. We are not acting in His image. The book says that the world loses something very important that it needs from women, and that is vulnerability, because if women aren't vulnerable then men have nothing to fight for. We become unbalanced - and we forget that God is vulnerable without being weak. He is vulnerable because He loves us, He died for us, and He gave us the free will to choose Him or not. The world needs to see that Jesus Himself stands there with arms wide open, having risked His life, with the possibility that we might still reject him even after all He's done. It didn't stop Him from taking the risk. He didn't take full control over humanity and had it done His way. And as a woman, I need to take the risk of loving fully without being in control of its outcome. I need to show that inviting, enduring love of Christ. This is where "turning the other cheek" comes in! I need to say to God, "Ok Lord, I'm going to give it my best and then let it go and see what You allow of it, and trust You, love You, whether it turns out good or bad."
b) Desolate, co-dependant personalities: Here's where a disclaimer comes in - it's NEVER God's will for women to be physically or verbally abused. This isn't where you turn the other cheek! But co-dependant women will - they will take it and assume they deserve it because they don't expect any better. These are the women with no real opinion of their own, who go with flow of anything, and who brood over everything that hurts them but oh so privately that everyone else will not have a clue. These women hide, and they accept things that aren't good for them simply because they don't feel worthy enough to stand up for themselves. They are the kind of women we would treat as doormats, and they come to our church folks! God gave us a balance between vulnerability and fierceness because He didn't want us to be taken advantage of - specially in such a fallen world. He created Deborahs, Esthers, Rahabs... women who one way or another demonstrated a fierceness to correct injustice and stand on the side of God's truth. God's truth is that we ARE lovely, we are "fearfully and wonderfully made", and when our hearts are submitted to Him we have the fierceness we need (without being controlling and destructive) to push forward and keep going for what is right. Women like this also don't bring glory to God because they create the opposite imbalance; men who are too aggressive and use their strength inappropriately. They also believe more in their emotions than they do in God's word, and so they are not really trusting God either! They don't fully let out all of their wonderful being and give their world only a piece of all they have to offer because the rest they hide in fear - and the world misses out on something great that it NEEDS from them. And if they do have great husbands who love them, they keep so much of themselves a secret from their own spouse that they don't fully enjoy all that marriage was intended to be.
I can't relate to co-dependant women.
In either case, if we stop committing adultery of the heart, and we turn to God for healing, we can finally not be haunted by this question but start living in the joy of all that His Word says we are! We can be the women that are full of the Spirit, walking in the fruit of the Spirit, and lovely from the inside out! Women that are a refreshing fountain to their spouses and children at home, women that are encouraging to hurting friends and family members, women that are a blessing to have in our church, and most of all, women that can change the world by not conforming to its pattern any longer and being transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:1-2).
My pastor preached, recently, about this verse and said that the Greek word for "conforming" is like being pressed into a specific mold, which is how this question haunts us - it changes us from our original free spirit into something less than lovely. However the Greek word for "transformed" is from the word "metamorpho" - basically implying that we can experience a night and day change in our hearts the way there's a complete difference between a cocoon and a butterfly.
If you take a cocoon when it is hatching and decide to help it, you ruin the butterfly for life, because without exerting the strength to break free of the cocoon it's body remains too enlarged and the wings too weak for it to fly. What a concept! As we come to God, as we choose to no longer by haunted by the question but find its answer in Jesus and His word alone, we need to realize that the process may be difficult and very painful, but the struggle is necessary in order for us to spread our wings and fly. Ladies, it is worth taking our wounded heart to Jesus for healing and not holding anything back! The reward is well worth it.