A Story and A Lie
Women are bombarded by unﬂattering messages about how we look. The attack on our hearts regarding our physical beauty started long ago, when we were just little. Even the movies we watched as little girls impressed upon our young hearts who was “pretty” and who was not. As we grew the messages became constant. We learned to deal with the billboards, magazines that are conveniently positioned on the checkout isles, on TV, and literally everywhere we look. Having grown up with the messages the world has told us about beauty, it is far too easy to fall into the trap of condemning ourselves when our outward appearance doesn’t look a certain way. As women who know the love and acceptance of God, why do we believe these lies? Why are we so hard on ourselves when it comes to our physical appearance?
It’s true, God loves us the way we are. Uh huh, I get that. Yes, it’s also true that women’s bodies are amazingly beautiful and do truly crazy things. Giving birth is just one crazy amazing thing, and for some of you, your body has conquered that monumental feat loads of times. All the things women’s bodies do are more than incredible. Yet all those magniﬁcent things seem, and feel, so cliche at times. We’ve heard it all before and still the words just don’t come close to ﬁlling the pull of the heart when it comes to our bodies.
Here’s another one we’ve heard: women are beautiful because we bring life into the world. Whether we physically bring a child into this world or bring life to the world another way, bringing life and light to the world is at the very core of who we are. It’s in our nature to bring life. We have this in common with Jesus, who gives us life. That is truly an inspiring thought that too often gets glanced over. So let’s dig in a little, shall we?
The Gift in Eden
Let’s go back to Eden. I don’t know about you, but growing up I was taught the pains of childbirth were a consequence of Eve’s actions. We all know the story: Eve is tempted by the serpent, ate the fruit, and immediately became ashamed. She and Adam hid because of their of shame and nakedness. I was told that God kicked Adam and Eve out of Eden as a punishment for disobedience. But what if there is more to it? I heard an idea a few years ago that maybe God wasn’t punishing them, but giving Adam and Eve a chance to learn. God needed to teach them how to love, and there is no love without trust and sacriﬁce. So the “consequence” of sin, from this perspective, is God showing mercy and lovingly teaching us that love is sacriﬁce. So we labor and sacriﬁce our bodies during childbirth and other stages of life as part of the process of learning to love. Instead of selﬁshly taking the fruit from whatever we want at the time, we surrender our body to the painful sacriﬁce of bringing life into the world. Not as a consequence, but as a gift.
Enter Jesus, whose entire existence was to sacriﬁce himself, to surrender His body for the sake of others. He is the perfect example of love, allowing Himself to be brutalized and left on a tree, surrendering in trust and an ardent desire to be with us for eternity. So we can take heart in uniting with Christ’s bodily suﬀering in our own in hopeful trust that at the end of this suffering comes life.
Wounds of Glory
After Jesus rose from the dead, He still bore the wounds of his passion. To many, such as the apostle Thomas, it was Christ’s wounds that proved his identity. Why did Christ come back still bearing these marks of the past? Could he have come back without them? Absolutely. The wounds certainly did prove to some that Jesus was who he said he was, especially immediately after the resurrection. But if the reason was simply to prove his identity, why did Jesus also appear to some of the most amazing saints with His wounds? There are stories of saints all through history who saw Jesus bearing his wounds. Personally, I don’t believe for a second that these incredibly faith-ﬁlled saints needed Jesus to come to them with his wounds so they would believe Him. But they are more than proof of ID. Christ’s wounds, his bodily marks of the past, are his crowning glory! He completed his mission, defeated death once and for all, brought life to all who chose, and is the source of Divine Mercy for all eternity.
After all Jesus went though, his wounds serve as reminders to us of His love and mercy. He doesn’t need the wounds to remember, but we do. The wounds reveal His glory and we can bask in that Divine Mercy. Christ is not ashamed of his wounds. Rather, Jesus shares them with others so they can learn of his love. So too are mothers’ physical wounds and scars the signs of sacriﬁcial love. They are marks and reminders of our crowning glory. Any trauma that you’ve experienced in life (physical, emotional, spiritual, psychological) that has left you relentlessly working to overcome is an opportunity to unite yourself to Christ’s sacriﬁcial love. A love that, when shared with others, shows the glory of God.
Forget the Fig Leaf
In one way or another, we all have our marks of the past which can serve as reminders not only of God’s glory, but ours. They are reminders of our growth in surrendering in trust to God and allowing Him to mold our hearts and teach us to love. We are not meant to hide our glory behind a ﬁg leaf only to diminish the sacriﬁce, the love, we’ve learned along the way.
Eve hid behind the ﬁg leaf out of shame and fear. Many reach for our fig leaves in struggles with vulnerability and acceptance. It is hard to be vulnerable with others and with God about the struggles of loving our bodies after the trauma of childbirth. It’s hard to be vulnerable with others and God about other traumas in life that we’ve overcome but still may haunt us. It can be so diﬃcult to accept and love how we look on the outside as well as all that is going on inside. It is much much easier to resort to condemning and shaming ourselves. What parts of your story do you tend to hide behind ﬁg leaves?
Instead of reaching for that ﬁg leaf be more like Jesus. Share the marks of your past, so others can encourage, support, and love you. Let God show you how He sees you and tell you how glorious you are right now, in this moment. Also, extend to yourself the love, grace, and mercy you give so easily to others. If you look in the mirror and criticize yourself, instead try, “this is part of my present glory” and remember all you’ve been through and conquered. And God’s not even ﬁnished with you yet. God is not ﬁnished showering you with His love and glory. God is not ﬁnished his transformational work in your mind, body, and soul. So take heart and keep trusting in His love.
Copyright 2020 Katie Sample
|Katie Sample moved to the Des Moines area from South Dakota. She is a wife and mother to a very passionate and energetic son. Katie yearns to dive deeper into the mysteries of God and all the ways he reveals his love to us. She also loves to listen and walk with people on their journey. It is not unusual to find her reading, listening to music, running, and drinking wine. The Samples are parishioners at St. Luke's in Ankeny, IA|