Last week a pregnant 24-year-old college student was walking to her car on a lunch break when she was approached by a man with a knife. He forced her into her car, made her drive a short distance to an ally, where he raped her, then locked her in the trunk of her own car before he fled the scene. This happened near Chicago State University, on 98th and Indiana, which is roughly 5 blocks from the school I work at. Continue reading
I glance over at the girl right ahead of me in line. She’s probably 16, wearing light blue-jean cut-off short shorts and a white tank top. Her hair is blonde, highlighted and thick, hanging perfectly straight down to her shoulder blades. Her skin is perfectly tan and her long legs are shapely and smooth. She is a classic high school hottie, and even at the ripe old age of 24, I am surprised to find that I am not in the least bit jealous when looking at her.
The past 15 years of my life have been, like most women, riddled with disordered eating and exercise habits, dissatisfaction with images found in mirrors, jealous comparisons to other women, and a general body-image funk which motivated many of my actions, feelings, and insecurities. In short, I’ve had a negative body image since the age of 11, when I asked my brother (the only member of the opposite sex who I felt comfortable even asking this kind of question to) whether or not I looked “hott” in my Spring Sing dress. An awkward question to ask a brother, to be sure, but all relations aside, I was desperate to know that my image was considered desirable. That would confirm that I was loveable.
Even at age 19, I would check the mirror in my peripheral, notice my “pooching” stomach or my “undefined” arms, and I would immediately check the latest new workout or diet program when I got to the nearest computer. And at age 23, I started the P90X program, hoping to finally attain the body that I had wanted and worshiped for nearly all my life.
Well, God put a stop to that. As soon as I started the program, I got sick. Then I recovered, started the program again, and I got injured. Then I started it again, this time being very careful about what kind of shoes I wore (my injury was foot-related), and God got to me in a way much more powerful than any physical ailment. He convicted my soul.
He reminded me of my long battle with bulimia, and how hard I tried to attain the “perfect body” and how this ideal image was not only stealing my health, but also stealing my worship and love away from Him. He warned me that if I were to succeed in obtaining the body I thought I wanted so badly, I would be successful in creating an idol of myself. I would worship my own body. I would be turning away from Christ.
God did not give me perfectly shaped, smooth, tanned legs. He gave me odd-shaped hips and stretch marks on my runner’s thunder-thighs, rock-hard calves, farmer’s tan, kitten-scratches, backstage-stumble scars, and accidental shaving nicks. But I realize now, looking at the girl ahead of me in line, ordering her drink from the cashier, that if God had given me the “perfect body” (at least the one that I had dreamed up in my head), He would never get my entire heart, nor the glory that He wanted from me. He would never get my testimony of a recovered bulimic/anorexic who’s burden was lifted by finding Christ. He would have never gotten my faith, love, life, and identity.
Also, if God had given me my idea of the “perfect body”, my pride would shoot through the roof. I would be like the stupid and adulterous woman in Proverbs, I would be conceited and altogether dependent upon my physical attraction rather than my character in Christ. I would worship my own body and want everyone else to worship my body as well, and when my body became old and wrinkled, I would be lost and alone, feeling worthless without my youthful beauty. I would be a totally and completely foolish and Godless woman.
How scary is that?
It’s good to be reminded of how close to complete and utter depravity I am. It’s good to be reminded that I am never too far away from the sin of idolatry ruling my life.
So as I watch the beautiful young girl walk away with her drink, I step up next in line to order, “If God had given me her legs, I would be in deep trouble!”, I say to myself. And regardless of what the “perfect body” looks like in today’s culture, or what it looked like to me during these past 15 years, I trust that God gave me a body perfectly fit to be His temple and His possession. Because after all, I wasn’t created in the image of magazine pictures, Spring Sing hotties, or Barbie. I was created in the image of my Lord and Savior.
And that, my friends, is a far better body than I could create by starving myself and doing expensive workout programs.
These are the shoes of a girl who is afraid to have the wrong opinions.
These are the shoes of a girl who lives a double life.
These are the shoes of a girl who is secretly terrified of success.
These are the shoes of a girl who cries out for reassurance and validation.
These are the shoes of a girl who looks in the mirror, becomes discouraged, and looses her lunch.
These shoes were made for an aimless walk. They were made to break at the slightest pressure.
These are the shoes of a woman who can finally share her story.
These are the shoes of a woman who is now taking ownership.
These are the shoes of a woman who can enjoy food in the company of strangers.
These are the shoes of a woman who is learning what it is to love herself.
These are the shoes of a woman who is running after Jesus and will keep running until the ends of the earth.
The shoes where made for chasing after an amazing God who will lead me to Himself.
What shoes are you wearing on your walk with Christ? Will they hold out? Will they break? How will they help you on your journey?
It was a normal Saturday morning: I was making the coffee and boiling the eggs for breakfast. The kitten was wining about not having any milk to drink and I was still rubbing the sleep out of my eyes enough to be forgetful of her. Steam screamed from the orange bauble-kettle and I turned off the burner to scoop Folgers into the French press, sprinkling the pile of dark grounds with a dash of orangy-brown cinnamon and pouring the steaming water up to the brim. After pealing the eggs and dousing them in black pepper, I sat down, opened up my Bible, and began to read. Not soon after taking my first bite of yolk-soaked toast, I was hit with this mind-shattering verse:
“For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.” 1 Corinthians 11:8-9
Now ladies, how do we feel about this?
As a newlywed, I have been learning quite a lot about my role as a wife, and let me tell you, it has not been an easy route; nor, I imagine, will it continue to be for quite some time. And perhaps it might have been a bit harder at first because of this fact: Men were not created for women. They were not created to serve them, respect them, love them, provide for them, or make them feel beautiful. They just weren’t. If they were, Adam would have been the second human, created to serve his wife Eve.
Instead, Eve was created for her man. She was to be his “help meet”. Meaning, she was a gift to Adam because she was completely designed to give him his every need. She was made from him and for him to be a helper, an encourager, a lover, and a team mate.
You all know the way it went, right? Eve was actually created from Adam’s rib. She actually was made from him. She is that much a part of him, and now, even though a wife is not cut from her husband’s side, she is still to come along side him (very much like a rib), and help him in the calling God has on his life.
Now, at first I thought that this meant women were below men, unequal and inferior to men. And to be honest, I had a little bit of a hard time swallowing this. Who of us ladies wouldn’t?
But this is not the case.
We were designed to be our husband’s help meet. So, we were created by God with a special man in mind for us. And when God created that man, he had us in mind as that man’s special helper. We were created, not to serve all men, but to serve and help and love and reverence one man: our husband.
Some of you may think: “Well Claire, this still seems like women get the short end of the stick!”
But it’s not true. We have the privilege of serving our husbands because, just like the Holy Spirit serves the Father and the Son and yet is still part of who God is, so we are in our marriages.
We are one with our husband. “The two shall become one flesh”— and so we are a part of him in a sense. Our natural design already is to nurture, encourage, love, defer to, and reverence. And when we do all of those very natural things for our counter part, our other half, our partner heir in the Kingdom, we make our husbands cherish us, love us, and value us as part of himself (his rib- if you will).
When we truly understand this scripture, we might read it as this: “For the Father is of the Son, but Christ is of God. Neither is the Father created for the Holy Spirit, but rather, the Holy Spirit was created for God.”
The only way, wives, we will ever see the beauty of the way God truly designed marriage to be, is if we start thinking of it as a reflection of God.
…However, I imagine some of you were like me that morning, utterly astounded and pretty much hacking up your breakfast when you read this kind of language. So….what does it mean to you?
How have you ladies seen this verse to be true in your lives? How has God been reflected in your marriage?
Dear Girl That Dresses Like a Hottie,
I saw you today in the CVS on Halstead.You walked by me in your skin-tight, hot pink, sleeveless dress, and I watched you stick your butt out as you strolled down the elise in your stilettos. You were buying diet coke and some cigarettes.
How can I convince you that you are beautiful?
Because you are. And it’s not because you have a tight, 19-year-old body. It’s not because you have globs of black mascara, shiny lip gloss, and highlighted hair. It has got nothing at all to do with the way you look right now, walking by me, all dolled up.
It is who you are that makes you lovely.
I want to ask you why? Why go out dressed like a club dancer? Why the low-cut, cleavage-bearing, short-skirted, skin-tight outfit? There is nothing good that this getup will bring to you.
You most certainly will attract a man, in fact, you’ll probably attract every man that passes by you (unless he is blind). But I guarantee that those men will only be interested in your body and not your heart or mind, (and certainly not your soul).
Any guy that picks up on you while you are dressed like that will never last. He will not be the best friend, partner, and lover you long for. He will not affirm all that you need to hear. He will not be a good father to your child. He will not love you as you gain weight, turn gray, struggle with finances, get emotional on your period, or find a lump in your breast.
Perhaps you’re not looking for that man. Perhaps you want to have some fun while you’re still young and beautiful. Perhaps it feels nice to have a guy tell you that you look like America’s next top model, and perhaps you have convinced yourself that you only want one night of passion with no commitment.
I understand. But have you fully thought this through?
Just from the way you carry yourself, in your heels and short skirt, you are putting yourself at risk.
You could wind up a lover of a physical abuser. You could give your number to a convicted felon. You could find yourself alone in a bedroom where there are several guys waiting. Your future husband could be repulsed by the way you are acting now. You could get pregnant.
You are also putting others at risk.
You are setting an example of what a woman is to every young girl who sees you walk by and thinks “I want to be loved like all the guys love her”. You are putting men who struggle with pornography and faithfulness to their wives as risk of temptation and sin. You are creating a situation where another woman may compare herself to you and feel insufficient in the way she dresses or looks. You are making it difficult for every man you pass to be a respectful, honest gentleman.
How you dress makes a statement about who you are. Especially as a woman. Because of this, I sincerely worry about you!
I am certain that you are not thinking about how lack of clothing can harm my own marriage. I know when I was young, and even not so long ago when I was less conscious of myself, I didn’t think about these things either. Being a temptation to a married man might even be fun for you. But one day you yourself will be married, and a girl dressed like a hottie will strut in front of your man. Then you will understand.
I pray that you find the confidence and security to know that you are enough and that you deserve a loving, kind, and respectful man. I pray that you understand that you are enough to attract a good man, just as you are, without the makeup and push-up bra.
Somewhere out there is a man, who isn’t perfect, but who will adore you and cherish you and treat you the way you truly deserve to be treated.
Believe that you deserve to be treated as treasure and don’t settle for anything less. You are fearfully and wonderfully made.
With much much love (and I mean that),
… I knew that title would get your attention.
The truth is I have been rather disturbed by our culture’s general view of sex. It is disgusting to me that pornography is one of the biggest money-making industries out there and I have become almost paranoid about men looking at me as simply a body rather than a person.
This is partially because I need to repent of my own sins and forgive the general culture’s addictive and idolizing tendencies because truth be told, I have my own vices which I am working on. I also need to remember that Christ forgives all sins, no matter what they are.
But the issue that I seem to be coming up against is that not all people really see their sex-obsession as a problem. In fact, some people even identify themselves by their sexuality, making it so much of a part of who they are that it truly becomes an idol to them, something they define their own worth by.
I know I am guilty of this. I mean, what girl doesn’t feel flattered when a guy thinks she’s attractive? But really…. deep down, we all are searching for something more than just flattery. We’re searching for a man who can make us feel truly loved, truly appreciated, truly accepted, and truly captivating.
But there is only one man who can do that, and his name is Jesus Christ. Every other man falls short of the glory that is God, and that’s how it was meant to be. It is meant to be that way because it forces us to need God so much and to depend on Christ’s love and fulfillment so that we do not mistake another man or a sexual act or a drug or another form of pleasure as God.
Our culture really does worship sex.
It is because we as humans are designed to worship. But we have gotten confused during that path and have turned to created things rather than the creator of things.
I could go on and on, but it’s rather late, and honestly, this guy says it better.
Please take the time to listen to Mark Driscoll teach about sex both in and outside of marriage. It has both convicted me and inspired me to truly see sex as a gift rather than a gross think, or, like many people today seem to see it as, a God.
After you listen, please take the time to answer my poll. Thanks!
God blessed them, and God said to them… “See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. God saw everything he had made, and indeed, it was very good…The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it… Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone, I will make him a helper as his partner”… The rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh or my flesh; this one shall be called Woman, for out of Man this one was taken.” Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked, and they were not ashamed.
–Excerpts from Genesis
Dennis and I have planted a garden outside of our home. It seems rather providential timing that we also began to read Genesis together in this new, fresh time of our lives. Genesis is the beginning story, where everything is set up and created. The creation story, as it were. I am finding simple lessons here as well as discovering the same old truths we all knew in our brains since sunday school, but knowing and hearing them be spoken in God’s own words which are written on our hearts is an entirely new experience. Perhaps I’m just feeling new about everything, but like our garden outside, I am very aware of the growth required in this transition period of time in my life. And it’s a wonderful reminder of where that strength and ability to stretch comes from, as we water seeds and read about the first humans before us.
First of all, I just want to point out that Adam and Eve were commanded by God to be Vegetarians in the Garden of Eden. (Shameless plug for veggie-eaters like myself and promoting such eating habits :-)They ate the plants of the ground and the fruit from (most of) the trees. Later God does allow people to eat animals, but it happens outside of the perfect world of the Garden when almost everything is peaceful and perfect.
However… there is that snake. God is all-powerful; nothing happens outside of his power and will, and yet he allows the snake to exist in Eden, the snake who tempts the woman and man into the first sin of the world. How and why could he allow this. It is this fact that makes me wonder if The Fall was necessary. If we were truly meant to leave Eden, and leave the perfect life of the Garden.
Perhaps our fall was tragic, but God meant it to be so, just the way he meant his Son’s death to be painful and tragic as well. In this case, Adam and Eve graduated from the Garden and into the rest of the world. But I’ll get to that in a moment.
Another thing I noticed: God puts man in the Garden to till it and keep it; he gives us work. Here and not God also gives us work. We are all meant for what God has in mind, but many make the mistake that it is one thing. I know that God called me to be an actor when I was 16 years old, and the I know he called me to drop it entirely in order to teach when I was 21. Now, who knows? God may call me to become a crossfit trainer or a mural painter. His calling changes, and we never know what we are made to do until we begin to do it, by the work of God’s hands.
In Eden, work was enjoyable. Man and Woman had dominion over all creation and were required to take care of it and keep it. This was work. After The Fall, work became less fun and enjoyable and rewarding, which leads us to now. Now, all anyone does is work, and it’s not always enjoyable. God doesn’t call us to live in perfect peace anymore. Just look at Jesus’ life. Jesus was completely perfect, and yet, people hated him and killed him. We are called to die in such a way as well. To die to ourselves.
Another thing I have noticed. Woman was created from Man. Woman was designed from the beginning to be the Man’s helper. Now, this may sound demeaning of women in some ways, to say that a woman is only meant to help a man. But help is a huge thing. The bible talks about help in a lot of different ways, but mainly in regards to God being a helper, the Holy Spirit being a helper, and as the Woman being a helper. Yet, the way I see it, if God is a helper and the Holy Spirit is a helper, then it must be a pretty big deal to be a helper to men. And men need help. That is why a husband clings to his wife when he leaves his mother and father. He needs her, in a similar way he needs God. God designed it to be this way and so it is very good.
During our first year of marriage, I have slowly become aware of the innate differences between men and women; how they think, act, organize, process, fell, and express ideas or emotions. I have also seen how this directly connects to The Fall.
To the women he said, “I will greatly increase your pangs in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children, yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” And to the man he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten of the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it’, cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread until you return to the ground, for out of the ground you were taken; you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
The man is meant to lead, but women always resist the vitally important roles as helpers and try to take control by manipulating just the way Eve did when she gave the fruit to her husband. Men are meant to lead, but they often shy away from this responsibility the way Adam did when he went along with his wife’s sin. We are cursed with these same tendencies today. Women often want to feel powerful and in control, and often this leads them to sin. Men often want to be irresponsible and childish and this often leads them to sin. We are living today with the same tendencies as the very first humans had, and it was their punishment that now we face. Women will desire after her husband, and also after his role. Women are often needy in this way and appear to be clingy and emotional beings because of this. Men are called for more work, in which they sweat and are not rewarded highly for their pain and toil.
How incredible to see where it all began. To see not only my likeness to Eve, but also to God. In Genesis, God shows all sides of himself. The vengeful wrath of God as well as the merciful, regretting, and covenant-building God. He has both qualities of man and women in him, which is why, I find, that Marriage is so beautiful.
The two shall become one flesh. Marriage is meant to be holy, I am finding. It was designed to make us more like God and encompass all of his beautiful perfect qualities, both masculine and feminine. The bible said that we were created in God’s image, both male and female, and so God (even though we call him a “He”), is also feminine in who He is. The only thing that got in the way of Adam and Eve being the perfect humans was sin, and this is true today. Sin is the only thing that drives two people away from one another. Sin is the separator.
I have been deeply convicted as of late. I have not been guarding my thoughts, and so my words have become poison rather than words that encourage or build up. I noticed it when I began writing letters to my students. The Holy Spirit was working as my incredible partner to help me see each of my students in the best way possible– the way God sees them and loves them dearly. This practice was incredible. I felt like a gardener, watering each child’s heart and confidence and mind. Where even the driest, hardest, and mealiest soil laid, I could grow a plant to bear beautiful fruit, so long as I looked at each of them through the lens of Christ. Christ died for people who hated him, but he did it because he loved them dearly. Although I was not dying for my students, I know that some of them weren’t exactly fond of me, nor had they been nice, polite, or even civil to me. It would be so easy to lash out at them or even ignore them, but God gave me the patience and positivity I needed to write them words of encouragement and love.
I realized yesterday that I need to apply this same practice to my marriage and friendships. Relationships need caring and love. They need to be fed and watered and cared for just like plants in a garden do. God called us to do it with plants and animals so long ago and now he calls us to do it with our partnerships, friendships, marriages, children, families, and any relationships at all. Nine months ago I made a vow to my very best friend to see all his failings as examples of God’s incredible grace, to love him actively as I actively peruse Christ, and to strive to see him in the way God sees him, as a beautiful image of his Son. Nine months later, I have fallen so many times, in the same way Eve and Adam fell so long ago.
But I have newly inspired hope.
I know God has moved people tremendously through my hands already. Not by my own doing, but by his. I know that he can continue to do so in each relationship I have here on this Earth. In doing so, He is tending to his own Garden and making it grow in his Son and in his Truth.
I am so blessed to be a gardener on this side and anticipate when I can also do even more rewarding work in heaven.
newly inspired and driven towards God and his garden.