I met Emily when I was co-hosting The Drew Marshall Show in July. She was speaking on the hang-ups that we, as women, have with our bodies, and I found her insight both powerful and freeing. Our conversation at dinner later that night only reinforced my impression that she is truly an amazing woman with a much needed ministry. I hope you enjoy her post.
We arrived late with a bottle of wine and I stepped on the back of my wedding dress as we crossed the threshold.
I didn’t see anything but the bed, with its nicely folded corners and my new husband already in his boxers and grabbing us glasses from the kitchen cupboard.
I leaned against the wall, drinking the white, in white, and we were 23-year-old virgins who’d never seen each other naked, had only felt each other’s skin and I couldn’t unzip my dress.
I stalled, pulling out my bobby pins and he helped me, and we made a nice little pile of pins and then he asked if he could help me with my zipper.
And I asked him if he wanted another glass of wine.
It wasn’t that I didn’t want to make love with him.
It’s that I didn’t want him to see me. All of me.
Not because I didn’t trust him, but because I didn’t like myself.
I didn’t like my skin and I thought maybe if we got the room dark enough first and we could do that every night, till death do us part, and he’d never see my flat chest or my wide hips or my pear shaped body.
I ended up slipping the dress around my ankles and then quickly sliding beneath the sheet and it’s taken me 10 years to learn how to walk into the bedroom naked, with the lights on. To look my husband in the eye, standing there in all of my skin, my stomach stretched with marks from two sons and my chest even flatter than it was before.
I am not beautiful because of my skin, nor because of my husband, nor because of my children, but because of my heritage as Abba’s creation.
But even though I was raised in the church, as a pastor’s daughter, who was baptized by the age of eight and went to youth group and memorized Scripture, I didn’t know that womanhood was something to be embraced. I didn’t know there were two different kinds of pride—a hubris kind of pride, which is a lifting up of the soul in defiance of God—and then, the other. The good kind of pride. The kind that Isak Dinesen defines in her book, Out of Africa:
Pride is faith in the idea that God had when he made us. A proud man is conscious of the idea, and aspires to realize it. He does not strive towards a happiness, or comfort, which may be irrelevant to God’s idea of him. His success is the idea of God, successfully carried through, and he is in love with his destiny.
I thought I was supposed to feel ashamed of my female curves. Of my body.
My mum was insecure and my dad, emotionally absent, so as children, we all battled low self-esteem. We weren’t allowed to watch The Little Mermaid because she had a bare stomach and Mum would get embarrassed if Dad caught her changing. I would be mortified if Dad saw my bra hanging on the clothesline. We thought we needed to be hidden away. Fig leaves, and such.
But Jesus came to change all that.
Jesus came so that shame would go. Jesus came, so that we could know, again, the full idea God had for us when he created us.
I am learning what it means to be a woman —
What it means to embrace all of my femininity and to see it as a loving calling. To know the difference between love of self, and loving myself, and to treat myself as tenderly as I would a friend.
My friend, Celeste Steele-Perez, puts it this way: “As I meditate on what it means to be a woman, I marvel. I feel strong… I celebrate every curvy nuance of the feminine mystique. The memory of birthing makes my blood rush with the knowledge that … I, too, am made in God’s image!”
She is a columnist for the Christian Courier and Prodigal Magazine, and a paid contributor to The High Calling. In addition to being associate editor, ghostwriter, copy editor, and staff writer, Wierenga has written for Christianity Today (Kyria), Christian Week, Faith Today, Adbusters, Geez, The Anglican Planet, Focus on the Family, Christian Courier, and In Touch. Emily speaks regularly across the continent at women’s retreats, universities, churches and conferences, about her journey with anorexia nervosa.