I find it hard to stay silent. I sit on my hands. I take deep breaths. How many times must I endure this? How many times must I hear criticism of the things I cannot control? How many times must I listen to this man speak about the things he does not know? I stare forward hoping my face doesn’t show what my mind is saying. I don’t allow myself to utter what I really feel … If this is what God thinks about me, I want nothing to do with him.
I see the look on the younger ones faces. The disbelief that someone can say such things about them. I long to shelter them from the barbs aimed at their souls. I long to stand up and tell him to shut up and leave them alone. I long to lash out at those older than me. WHY? Why do you allow such nonsense to happen? Why do you enable these men to treat your daughters this way? I find myself wrestling between being brave and being submissive. Unfortunately I am not brave. I am weak from years of doing what I am told. Of submitting to the role of being the weaker vessel. Of accepting my fate of being out of order simply because I can’t change the size I wear. I stay silent and allow my soul to bleed.
I was a teenager the first time I was subjected to a ladies meeting. Although the content was different, the focus was always on the standards. The standards are a set of dress codes and behavior requirements for a holy people. When I first questioned the standards I was told “It’s to show externally what is happening internally.” I didn’t feel any more righteous because I wore a skirt.
For most of my life I played with the boys. This ended the day I turned 13. I was taken to dinner. Just a ‘mentor’ and me. She explained how I was now considered a woman. A woman who would cause the boys and men to stumble. I had already endured an awkward conversation with momma involving a crazy book that used a papier-mache chicken to explain the facts of life. I was horrified as she explained how I would cause boys to do things that were bad. The very boy that I had climbed trees with yesterday would look at me and want to touch me in ways I didn’t want to be touched. I was initiated into the world of guarding my brothers’ souls. She acted like this was something to be excited about.
Already wounded by sexual abuse, the pressure of this job was brutal. The continued molestation through my teen years only confirmed that I did not love my brothers enough. I began to wear clothes that were at least 2-3 sizes too big for me. About a year after the initiation into the world of soul protection I had a crush on a boy. I prayed that he’d notice me. I was crushed when he paid attention to the other girl. The girl who wore clothes that fit her. When my mentor discovered my crush … I was in BIG trouble. Once again I was told about guarding my brothers’ souls. I endured yet another awkward conversation about being attracted to a boy and causing him to want to do things that were bad. I was encouraged to sign a contract that I would never get married. I did so gladly. I was 14 years old.
The meeting devolved into craziness, like they always do. The men quit talking and the older, wiser sisters took over. Honestly, they are more brutal than the men. I bit my tongue as the discussion evolved into a debate. The subject? Whether a woman with a “large” chest should be required to wear a jacket to cover them up. Now it wasn’t just enough that I had to wear long sleeves, loose fit and non-see-through, I would have to wear ANOTHER piece of clothing because I was ‘blessed’ with a little too much on top. I left asking God if he hated me.
I figured once I was married the conversations about my body and what I wore would stop. After all, I was someone’s wife and the Bible said, “Thou shalt not covet your neighbor’s wife.” (Exodus 20:17 KJV). I was never good at figuring out life.
The next session with my psychiatrist was interesting. As I tried to explain to her why I needed to find a way to eliminate my chest and my hips she looked at me with disbelief. “Why do you subject yourself to this? Why do you allow yourself to be verbally abused like this?” I looked at her and said, “You just don’t understand.” Her response was perfect. “No. You’re right. I don’t understand.”
Nine years later … I don’t understand either.
I wore a dress for my anniversary. It was tight, it was sleeveless and it was short. It showed every curve. I knew that when I bought the dress. I had ONE purpose. I wanted to make my husband say WOW. I knew I was doing the EXACT thing I was told I shouldn’t do all those years. I was using the beauty God gave me, to attract a man. It wasn’t just any man. It was the ONLY man who matters to me. The only one that I want to be beautiful for. I felt shy when I first walked out of the room but his face was worth it. Honestly, I had NO idea there were other people around. In that moment, there was only he and I and I knew he thought I was beautiful. I told myself I’d repent later…
Abba wasn’t interested in my repentance; he held nothing back. “I did NOT create you to be a stumbling block. I made you to be a reflection of my beauty. I made you to bring joy to those around you. I made you to be who you are. They told you that your body is something to hide, full of shame and sin. I did not create you that way. You are my daughter. You are beautiful the way you are.”
Years. Years I lived with self-condemnation because I felt it would please him. Years I carried the weight of hundreds of brothers’ temptation because I was told it was my job. Years I remained silent as the older pushed the younger into the same condemnation.
I’ll be blunt. Putting the weight of a man’s lust on the shoulder’s of a 13-year-old girl is ABUSE. They succeeded (maybe) in keeping some poor soul from being enticed by the wickedness of my femininity but they destroyed ME. Ultimately they decided that the souls of men are more important than the souls of women.
I still believe in modesty and purity but I’m raising my girls differently. When I question clothing, behavior, music, movies or books it’s in the context of purity, but not the fake kind of the Purity Movement. Awkward conversations and late night questions dot the landscape of parenting teenage girls. As I begin to embrace my own femininity I find it easier to help them discover who they are.
I have a prayer for my girls. I pray they will learn that they are uniquely made to reflect the beauty of Abba. I pray they will see every freckle, every curve, every bit of their human body and see just how beautiful he made it. I pray that they will see their momma love their father in a way that has no shame and they will long for love like their parents have. I pray for the day they will meet the man who they want to want them, for the rest of their life, and they will not hesitate. I pray that they will grow into the beautiful, amazing women they were designed to be with no regrets, no shame and no fear.
Abba took the weight of fake righteousness from my shoulders. He told me that I was beautiful. He encouraged me to embrace being a woman. I am so glad that I finally listened to his voice.
I’m linking up this week with Grace & Truth at Arabah Joy.