Over heart, I have painfully
Turned every stone
Just to find, I had found what
I've searched to discover
I've come much too far for me now to find
The love that I sought can never be mine
And though you don't believe that they do
They do come true
For did my dreams
Come true when I looked at you
And maybe too, if you would believe
You too might be
Overjoyed, over love, over me
~Stevie Wonder, Overjoyed
I have had the unfortunate opportunity of being "critiqued" by the opposite sex. I've been in the position, more than one woman's confidence can consistently weather, of having who I am be compared to those whom I was never meant to compete with...other women. Needless to say, it left an impression. And well, I stood looking yet not seeing what He sees...
Who will love my mind...my heart...and my body? Who will love...me? I would like to be married again one day yet I can't help but to wonder...in the eyes of man, do body parts make the woman? And if so, are they not hallow too? Are my rounded thighs and the folds in my back profane? Has life's shaping of my form condemned me to a bed without the heave and heat of balance, the oneness of a holy enrapture?
The truth is...most of my experiences as a grown woman have repeatedly rendered the answer 'yes.' I don't have the snap, bounce, and perk of women on tv, in movies, or self-featured internet videos anymore. And well, I do not have the kind of resolve that would lead me to be enhanced by the cut and tuck of a surgeon's knife. My breast have been enhanced though...like flowers under the baptism of rain, they've taken on a slope that my ancestral mothers did not count as loss. I imagine my fore mothers, with the sun's pucker upon them, bare backed and bountiful. My breast have taken on the supple dip and honored sway of a woman who has bore and breast fed three young souls. So why, after the end of a marriage, did I look in the mirror to only see nudity unworthy of desire?
True enough...there are men (and women) whose idea of a body as a "marvelous work" is more firmly grounded in 1st Peter 3:4 and day-to-day reality; the stretch and labor of a pre and post pregnancy belly, the fatigue on the face of a quiet woman whose 4 month old's sleep cycle ends with a wail in 2 hour blocks, the multi-tasking of a gentle lady who flutters from mayonnaise jar to deli meat and bread...from 4pm homework attempts to 6pm parent conferences. A woman's work...the deferred hope of 30 minute meal preparation plans that in real-time translate into 90 minute seasoning and simmer, the vertigo inducing merry-go-round known as laundry for a family of 5, and the daily sonic pitched temper tantrums of 2 year old. And sports practices...dance rehearsals...dental and doctors appointments galore. The flat pages of a magazine can not hold this picture nor can a touch screen possess it. No screen fitted fantasy can contain the energy squeeze of insomnia salved and quelled by a 4th graders morning hug before leaving for school. That is the reality that the bodies of the women I know live in. Life. Action. Love.
Yet true enough too...those same women (and men) seem to be acquiescing to the zeitgeist of reducing what is spirit to only form...labeled in male circles as "t and a". For Christ's sake, what cruel turn of history rendered women as only a "hole"...as only an orifice, an object for aiding penile contraction and abetting its release? Thieves. On earth as it is in heaven...am I not sacred too? Erected upon the "rejected stone of offense"...whose temple am I and for whose use?
I speak from the experience of attempting to have an intelligent, compassionate conversation with a man only to be asked to bend over and touch my toes. And in another land not too yonder...the expressed toll to cross the bridge to a man's care and attention was "talking" to his other "head" before the other parts of me (my mind and heart) would be considered. Like a cumulus cloud my heart laments Fruitvale Station's life quenching tracks...blood on the concrete leaves, blood at the concrete root. As a kindling fire my mind illuminates in jubilee upon Orion...quantum symbols and esoteric leaps. By cloud. By fire. I feel. I think. So why, after the end of a marriage, did I look in the mirror to only see myself as body only, in parts sinful to the sight?
When did God's ruach quickened, earthen vessel choose to scrutinize herself to meet man-made approval? Does man have command over rain and baptism? When did male and female become judge over the fearful intricacies that we are too foolish to fathom. Can man make what is truly wonderful manifest?
I don't know in totality what it is like for other women yet I imagine that my struggle to see my naturally enhanced parts as part of a whole, as holy (mind, body, and spirit) is a struggle familiar to women young and old. But this is what I do know...as I consider the possibility of matrimony in the distance, only a man who is conformed by the spirit, whose speech and actions follow hard after Thee will be able to see the stark nakedness, the glory of God that is me as beautiful, in cohesive salvation to the sight.
As I stood before my bathroom mirror after a mid day shower I stood in the regalia of all of my Shining Mothers' brown skin. What the world, in all of its fantastical appeal, objectifies The Most High sanctifies. Justifies in Completeness. A Truth that perpetually and forevermore transcends this world's trends and facts. Yet in that moment I could not see myself as a woman who is augustly sweet on the eye. But in the cool of the evaporating remnants of my cleansing, God...
God saw. The Most High saw me...as I stood in all my hurts and disappointments. God saw what I did not see. Grace reigned over me...stood in the nude with me and discerned the secret shame that salted the tears that had created a river of remembered disregard and harsh sentiments from my cheeks to my shoulders. And in the power of all that He is...He heard me...embraced me with the arms that set the foundation of this reality and brought Light to dimensions unknown...."kissed me on my neck" and whispered in my ear, "It is good."
But [woman], you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, aholy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of [Her] who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. ~from 1st Peter chapter 2
I am woman.
I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.
"Very glibly we are apt to use such words as "sympathy," "compassion," "sitting where they sit," but in experience it is genuinely to be rocked to one's foundations. We resist making room for considerations that will bend us out of the path of preoccupation with ourselves, our needs, our problems. We corrupt our imagination when we give it range over only our own affairs. Here we experience the magnification of our own wills, the distortion of our own problems, and the enlargement of the areas of our misery. The activity of which we deprive our imagination in the work of understanding others turns in upon ourselves with disaster and sometimes terror. The willingness to be to another human being what is needed at the time the need is most urgent and most acutely felt - this is to participate in a precise act of redemption. This is to stand for one intimate moment in loco dei in the life of another - that is, to make available to another what has already been given us. We are not the other person; we are ourselves. All that he is experiencing we can never know - but we can make accurate soundings which, properly read, will enable us to be to him what we could never be without such awareness. To the degree to which our imagination becomes the angelos of God, we ourselves may become His instruments." ~Howard Thurman, Disciplines of The Spirit
With the hardened sight of an adult, I asked in prayer...
Through the years, this experience (person, place or thing) has been a thorn in my side. What do I do when problem circumstances or problem people frustrate my wants and desires? When will I have relief from this challenge?
Last month I had Kanye West's, Heard Em Say in heavy rotation. Adam Levine's vocals have a way of lulling me into a contemplative state...definitely a sweetly finessed accompaniment to Mr. West's lyrics. There's just something about the whole of the song that stirs my spirit. It possesses a mindful openness and innocent appeal...a melody where adult experience is tempered by the longing of a child's heart. And as I allowed the melody to wash over me something happened...my perspective shifted.
With the tender ear of a child, I asked in prayer...
Through the years, have I been the thorn in the side of this experience (person, place, or thing)? Have I been the circumstance, the person who has frustrated the wants and desires of those around me? Have I been the challenge without relief for others...my siblings in God..."my neighbors?" "Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts;And see if there be any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way" (Psalm 139:23-24, NASB). Love, show me myself.
And I heard Christ say... Do not judge [others self-righteously], and you will not be judged; do not condemn [others when you are guilty and unrepentant], and you will not be condemned [for your hypocrisy]; pardon [others when they truly repent and change], and you will be pardoned [when you truly repent and change].
Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure—pressed down, shaken together, and running over [with no space left for more]. For with the standard of measurement you use [when you do good to others], it will be measured to you in return" (Luke 6:37-38, AMP).
Love set my focus Higher. Rather than being preoccupied with, giving an emotional-spiritual unhealthy amount of attention to how I was experiencing life, I chose...I decided...I allowed...I yielded...Isubmitted my emotional-spiritual occupation and attention to how my neighbors and siblings in God may be experiencing me. What affect and effect has my presence had in their lives?
What affect and effect has our presence, yours as well as mine, had upon the Most High's ever splendid creation known as Life? Truly, what has flowed from the cisterns of our words and actions? Blessings or curses? Emotional-spiritual healthiness or unhealthiness? Truly, have we effected and affected wealth in our siblings' spirit or poverty in our neighbors' heart? If God searched the whole of me or the whole of you, what would the Most High hear or see?
When I began to ask the Higher questions in prayer, I went from being self-righteous and unrepentant to humble and grateful. In reality, we all have had moments or even entire seasons of life in which we have had a narcissist-esque attention, preoccupation with our own perspective. Yet in Grace, the Holy Spirit has a way of turning persons, places, or things in upon us in such a way that the experience par excellence know as LIFE pricks the inner woman/man and sharpens our scope...sets our affections HIGHER.
In reality, we have experienced the unmerited buffering of full consequence...forgiveness and mercy. Glory be to Love!
When one considers all of his/her ways, one may find that, in reality, they have not truly received the full measure of what their poor words and their poor actions have deserved. What if I received my poor words in full return? What if you received your poor actions in full return? What would be the repercussion of disappointment and hurt in our own mind and heart? In affect, how would you have felt? In effect, what would you have done? What would that perspective be? What would the experience of receiving what we have poorly given to others in life be? Imagine that! What is the nature of darkness, of one who is unrepentant? Neighbor, what if solely nursing our own hurts and disappointments...choosing...deciding...allowing ourselves...yielding...submitting to pride (in self - in ones own mortal view) has hardened our sight? Or biblically speaking, what if walking by another so as to not "defile" ourselves with their perspective/experience has prevented us from bending to lift in Love (The Parable of the Good Samaritan, Luke 10:25-37)? What is the nature of humility? My brother and sister, what could be the purpose of those "thorns" in our respective lives? What is the nature of light, of one who is humble?
Who is the acceptable cistern? Who is the righteous and immortal view? And I heard Em say... "This is the message we heard from Jesusand now declare to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all.So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness; we are not practicing the truth.But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have
fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us
from all sin. If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth.But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts" (1st John 1:5-10, NLT).