I stood before the full-length mirror staring at the naked image. How can this be my body? How can it change like this? Why can’t it just stay the way it was? God, did you really have to make me a girl? My prayers to not be a girl started somewhere between the beginning of second grade and the end of fifth grade. At first my prayers were about just being a girl. After all it appeared to me that God only wanted a bunch of boys to rule the world. But then I began to notice that my body was changing. And the prayers began to take a different tone. I couldn’t see the way Abba sees me.
I remember the day. The day we kicked out the boys and I learned what it meant to have a girl’s body. It is embarrassing enough to learn about pads, periods, vaginas and penises and a thing called intercourse in a room of equally terrified 11-year-old girls, but having your momma there? There are no words. Of course I learned later, on the playground, that this meant we could have sex now. And then I learned that the thing that had been happening to me, for years, was this thing called sex. And I was undone. So I prayed harder. Because I didn’t want to grow up and have to endure that for the rest of my life. And then the breasts began to grow. And the lectures began. And I began to beg God to stop the development. To make me ugly. To please, for the love of God, don’t make me be a girl anymore.
You don’t endure that kind of psychological twisting and it not mess you up for a long time, if not a lifetime.
I learned through my experiences and the lectures to hate the very body that I was born with. Even though inside I was very much a girl, I hated the fact that I was a girl. It’s absolutely no surprise to me that I developed suicidal thoughts really young. By the time I entered the late teen years and the development was pretty much done, I quit praying. But my disdain for my body didn’t leave.
I spent about 20 years of our marriage hating my body. The husband didn’t understand and that made things even worse. I shared my body with him, because that’s what a ‘good’ wife does, but I didn’t share my heart, mind or soul. It created a gulf between us is that is slowly being healed.
Today, I like my body…or, I’ll say, I am content with my body. Now that I actually get to reflect who I am on the outside, I love that I am a woman. I love the way my husband looks at me and I love the way I look at him. I actually love taking time to do my hair, put on make-up and wear something that I like and looks good on me. Because I love the way it makes him smile. And I’ve learned, that it’s ok to love that and that Abba made me that way. And finally, at age 41, I’m ok with who he made me.
MOST girls who grow up in legalistic body-shaming environments or are sexually-abused have issues like mine. These issues are incredibly hard to face and overcome. It requires a lot of pain, tears, strength, bravery, mercy, love and grace. It will not happen until we feel safe. That didn’t happen for me until 2012 at the age of 38. I have friends in their 50s that still don’t feel safe enough to do the hard-work of healing. Thankfully we have the loving grace of Abba who makes up the difference for a lot of us women carrying unnecessary burdens.
I’d like to be vulnerable with you, for a bit. I’m writing from a female perspective, to a female, but I suppose that this could be applied to a male perspective also. What I’d like to share with you is the exercise that helped me to remove the idea that my body was a sex object and to embrace and love the female form that Abba gave me. I didn’t come up with this idea on my own. It’s a compilation of ideas from my psychiatrist and the many blogs I’ve read about femininity and sexuality. It is entirely written from the perspective of a sexually abused woman and not intended to be anything remotely inappropriate.
One day I decided to end my hatred of my body. I used my innate ability to be inquisitive and explore. Once I was in my safe place, my bedroom, with the door locked, I asked Abba to please help me. To see what he sees and to no longer see what I what I had been told to see my entire life. Because I can’t stand awkward silence I played music. There are dimmer lights in our room and I put it on the lowest setting with just enough light so I could see. Then I removed all my clothing and stood naked before a full-length mirror. I stood and stared at the naked image. I listened to my voices and I answered everyone of them back. And then I began to explore. I touched every part and I said to myself, “You are beautifully and wonderfully made.” And as I moved from my head down, I began to see the beauty of the female. The female body that bares the image of the creator. That proclaims beauty and mystery and birth and life and love. And I began to realize that this body houses who I am. It contains my heart, soul, mind and spirit. It says everyday, “This is who I am.” But it doesn’t define me alone. Without “me” my body is nothing…but without my body…I don’t exist.
When they taught me to hate my little female body, they taught me to hate who I was. When they tied my worth to what my body could to do for another human, they told me I was a sex object. When they told me that I was sinful because I was a girl, that I was responsible for the eternal life of men’s souls, they shattered my spirit. When they taught me to hate being a woman, they taught me to hate the one who made me.
They didn’t tell me that I was fearfully and wonderfully made. They didn’t tell me that I was knit together, masterfully, in my mother’s womb. They didn’t tell me that Abba has delighted in my little female humanness from the moment I took my first breath. They didn’t tell me that when he saw me, a little girl, he saw the future of his creation. They didn’t tell me that I was loved and adored. They didn’t tell me that I was never meant to be a sex object, but that I was designed to love and give myself as a gift to one person for the rest of my life. They didn’t tell me that finding my femininity, my sexuality, my humanness would make me realize just how beautiful and amazing and wonderful Abba is and what it means to be made in the image and likeness of the creator. They didn’t tell me that I could love myself and it would make my Abba smile.
I still occasionally have to stand in front of that mirror and remind myself. Some voices are harder to silence. But I’m learning to love my ever-changing, now aging body. And I share all of me with the husband now. And it’s made a huge difference in our marriage.
I encourage you. Be brave. Stand naked before yourself and let go of the words you’ve said before. See the way Abba sees you – a beautiful, wonderful creation designed to be exactly who you were made to be.