I read a book several years ago called Captivating: Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman’s Soul by John & Stasi Eldrege. It is about discovering the beauty in a woman and the beauty of her heart. I was thankful that the authors pointed out early on that the beauty they refer to doesn’t revolve around external beauty or external/obvious femininity, because I was tomboyish as a child and lean less towards outward feminine characteristics and more towards androgynous ones.
However, I have recently learned that the point of the book hardly touched me on the levels which the authors intended. That I am beautiful as a woman still is a concept skirting the edges of my heart, fluttering beautifully around me like a tender butterfly but never landing on me because I’m no flower. Last week I had a conversation with a friend who tells me that I am beautiful, but whose words are always rebuffed with a smirk, a snuff, or a carefully disguised and insincere “thank you.” She caught on to my lack of belief and proceeded with an uncomfortable one-sided dialogue about how I need to let the message that I am beautiful truly sink in.
A few days later, we both went to a church meeting that offers big group worship and speaker time, then breaks up into individual groups focusing on recovery and healing in various areas. She leaned over in big group and pointed at the pamphlet to the class titled “Captivating” and I rewarded her with furrowed brows and a frown. Afterwards, seeing no other class that seemed relevant to my life at this time, and being convicted by the speaker to not go to the class that I wanted to go to but to the one that I needed to, we both went to the Captivating class. Deep down I knew it was where I needed to be, especially in light of the recent conversation with my friend about my inner rejection of God’s truth about me.
When I walked into the class – a very packed room of a women – I could literally feel estrogen overload in the air. It pressed around me and smothered me as surely as the stuffiness of the room crammed with warm bodies. I stumbled over several pairs of legs – skinny, womanly legs as opposed to my large legs supporting my larger body – and found a tight little chair in the middle. I sat down, clutching my purse – an item recently introduced into my 37 years of purse-avoidance and all things “girly” – and thought “what a farce.” Here I was, holding the icon of womanly things which I’ve only had for two months, sitting in a room filled with women who are far more womanly or ladylike or feminine than me in a class that I’m supposed to learn about how beautiful I am.
Turns out, all of those women, despite their level of attractiveness or external femininity, felt the same that I did. The speaker who talked about the book, giving an overview as this was the first “open” meeting of a new class, also reiterated this totally off-the-wall concept that feeling the very opposite of beautiful was something that the majority of women struggle with. How could this be I wondered? Yet on some level, I knew how. I have meditated on it and written poems about, and I know where my identity as un-beautiful comes from, just as I know where my identity of being beautiful will come from.
So here I am, challenged to think about things my woman’s heart would rather not entertain. It’s time to let the truth seep through the resistant pores of my mind, my heart, my soul. I am afraid of the rocks in the earth which will be touched by the healing waters. I’m afraid of worms being unearthed, or perhaps of the pain of cold water shocking my parched roots, so unaccustomed to a pure, refreshing, hydrating abundance of truth and kindness. I’ll continue to go to the next 5 weeks of the open class. I’ll continue to wrestle with feeling un-beautiful amid women clearly more attractive and feminine and graceful than me. Here we go world … the ugly duckling emerges from a swamp of lies to discover it’s swan-like origins and heritage.
“You are altogether beautiful, my darling; there is no flaw in you.” – Song of Songs 4:7