This post has been brewing since Saturday night. We had a Mother's Day Brunch at my church on Saturday, and when the mayhem was over, I had a thought:
"What was I thinking?"
Every time I walked by a mirror, again... "WHAT was I thinking?"
When my husband saw me and said, well- thing that husbands say to... uh... encourage your self-esteem... in the way that only husbands should...
"What in the heck was I thinking?"
The following is something I really don't care to talk about, as there have been a lot of tender moments in my life regarding clothes. When it comes to apparel, I DO NOT like to admit fault. I love to pull out scriptures like, "... man looks on the outward appearance, God looks at the heart" (1 Sam 16:7); or "... God does not judge on external appearance... " (Galatians 2:6). I use these as most of my criticism has come from inside the church and home.
Now, before anyone gets her knickers in a twist- let me say that I do not know what I would have done if I was in my parents' position. There I was, a normal-looking child, and then one day- all of the sudden- holy cow! I was a woman. In fact, I was one of those unfortunate souls who was more of a woman than the next girl. And I was only 13. I went to school one day, wearing a white turtleneck and forest green jeans. When I got into my carpool at the end of the day, the two kids I rode with giggled and giggled.
"You ask her!"
"No, you ask her!"
"Ask me what?" I inquired.
"Rachel, do you stuff?"
"Stuff what?" I replied. The following was a 5-minute, absolutely horrifying conversation about how my recently-increased bust-size was on everyone's lips that school day. As soon as I got home, I raced up the stairs, only to discover that they were right: I had (oh, I'll just say it!) boobs.
I hate that word. It is a vile word. In my opinion, "boobs" is an onomatopoeia. That word thunders when I hear it, just like my own set thundered when I walked, (oh God) ran, tried to button a shirt up over them, etc. Every time I heard that word as a young girl, I heard a "DUHN DUHN DUHN" attached to the "s," like it was a movie super-villain, here to spoil all my fun. My poor parents, in an effort to perhaps wrap their minds around my recent development, had the most difficult time trying to wrap a shirt around them. Everything began as a large or extra-large on my small frame. When only a few months earlier, my body was never a topic of conversation, now, my 13 year-old brain considered it to be the only conversation.
Concerning the church, it was during the time when people still wore their "Sunday best," which involved a lot of dress-finding. Thank goodness for the baby doll dresses of the early '90's, but my figure was not an uncommon discussion amongst the leadership of the church, either. At one point, I even got an, "It's not the length of the dress, or the tightness. It is the fabric we don't like."
Needless to say that I was very bitter toward my chest. I hated it. I hated the attention it brought from just about everyone. It was never positive, in my young opinion.
As time went on, I discovered what clothing flattered my body, and I somewhat accepted my chest as a viable part of it. I protected it from looks and wagging tongues. "I was made like this," or "I can't help the way I was made," were common responses to questions regarding my dress. I had a "get over it" mentality toward people and leadership, and became almost defiant regarding it. In Bible college, this mentality worsened when in class one day, the boys were separated from the girls, and we were told to "be nice to the men," and dress "appropriately;" as men are "turned on" through their eyes.
"What? Be kind to them by dressing appropriately? Why can't they learn to control themselves? Why must the compliance always be on MY side?"
Nearly 5 years later, I walked into the doors of a recommended plastic surgeon. In my appointment, I lifted up my shirt, and he poked and prodded my chest. "Oh, yes. They are... hmm... oh, and you are very asymmetrical. Yes." Then he took a picture, before which he said, "Make sure you hunch your shoulders over. You want them to look as long and ugly as possible."
Oh. Dear. If I wasn't insecure before. As we finished our appointment, he recommended that I try to lose 20 pounds before I considered the surgery. So I did. And then I lost 20 more.
Lo and behold... they were all but gone. At this point, I was completely out of relationship with God. I wore whatever I wanted- and looked "cute" in just about everything. There was no church, no parents, no covering- only a credit card and my own conscience. And my conscience was calloused and seared.
Lets fast-forward 5 years. I am married, 31, mother of a toddler, and completely in fellowship with God. After my child, my chest sort of- well, some of it returned, although the scale reads the same. My friend and we'll say "higher-up" in my church is in my chair, and I say, " Just to let you know, I am showing some cleavage during the mothers and others brunch." I really didn't think anything of it- I have a cute dress, I want to wear it, and there won't be any boys around anywhere. Yes, it shows an exorbitant amount of bust-age, but we are all girls. It's OK, right?
I assembled 140 cupcakes the morning of the brunch, and had all of (literally) 3 minutes to get ready. I tossed on my dress and shoes, and ran out of the door. The first time I walked by a mirror at the brunch, I was horrified.
Boobies everywhere. Jiggling for Jesus. Completely inappropriate.
What if there is a girl who (God help her) sees me as a role model. "Miss Rachel wears stuff like this, Mom!" I can hear it now. She might not be mature enough to realize that there were no boys at the event. I am... embarrassed.
20 years after the development of my first bit of breast tissue, do I finally get it? Is my mother folding her arms in delight, a billboard of "I was right" flashing from her forehead (the disdain of every teenage girl)? I don't know, and really- I don't care. All I do know is that I felt something different than I have ever felt. I felt my desire for cuteness nullify my desire for holiness- and I didn't like it.
So, what does a Christian woman look like? I suppose there is a line for every girl- even for the "free" ones, like me. I am free from the opinions of others. I am free because I know Whose opinion matters. He knows my heart. But He also knows my heart is for people, and encouraging others in their path toward holiness. He knows that my heart is for early-developing girls who are struggling with new body parts. We all want to be cute, but there is a balance- as much as I have hated to admit it.
So, have a wonderful Thursday. Sorry for the very long picture-less post. Love, and thanks to you who have looked at my blog now, over 8,000 times.
This morning's breakfast is tomorrow's post! Yum!