Friday, January 30, 2015

Horror Stories

I've had opportunity here lately to think about what it means when we talk redemptively about ourselves, when we tell our stories for meaningfulness above all other things. And, of course, on the flip side of that, what it means when we don't.

I think women are more prone to this than men because we are, by our very nature, talkers. We work things out in words and in groups, and it's easy for us to get caught up in the we, and our girlfriends, are talking. Or maybe it's just easier for me to see this in women because I happen to be one and because, as a woman, I can only really speak to a woman's heart. If any of you guys reading would like to take a shot at this from a male perspective, hit me up. I'll share my space with you if you've got something meaningful to say on the subject.

But it always happens, doesn't it, ladies? We get together, and it's not long before we're talking about all the terrible things. We're sharing stories like war veterans, bonding over the things that "happen to us all." We're talking about how the last time we went shopping, we had to start looking at bigger numbers. We're talking about how when we got dressed for the very dinner we're now sharing, we had to lay flat on our backs and kind of jiggle our ways into our clothes. We're talking about a few extra pounds here, a few extra hormones there, a head of hair that we just can't do anything with, make-up that doesn't flatter our cheekbones, a new nail polish we're just not sure about, kids we can't control, husbands we can't get to talk to us, houses we can't keep clean, and the list goes on and on. 

We make it sound like it's a whole lot of work to be lovely. And the funny thing is, in all our talk, where is the loveliness?

Isn't that what God intended us to be? Lovely? Beautiful? Tender? Strong? We sit around so often and talk like ugly, bitter, weak hags instead of the women of God we were meant to be. Even Christian women, I'm sad to say. And what's most terrible about it is that we do it all with a smile on our faces. We do it all in joy. We feel most in community when we share all of this with one another and find out that we're not alone. It's like this magical, mystical force that's drawing us together.

...and dragging us down.

All this talk we're doing, all these things we think are bonding us to one another, they're all reflections not of grace, but of the curse. They're reflections of the lesser things we've become because of sin. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the stories we tell over pregnancy. Every once in awhile, you will find a woman who will bravely say, "Oh, I loved being pregnant," but for the most part, it's a swapping of horror stories. When we started puking. How often we were puking. How swollen our feet got. How much weight we put on. How much weight we could never get off. The toll of gestational diabetes. The difficulty of labor. The fear of the emergency C-section. The alien that eventually came to be our precious bundle of joy, and how we still can't figure out exactly how that's our kid. 

Never mind, it seems, that we had the incredible opportunity to participate in the miracle of life. We put our hands on pregnant bellies and rejoice over the heartbeat, then talk about the morning sickness and the pain and the problems. What about the heartbeat? What about the life? Why isn't that our bonding point? Why isn't that where we start the conversation?

We're better at talking about pain than we are at talking about life. We're better at talking about trouble than about miracles. And I don't know, I think in an unsuspecting sort of way, it's come to change what we think life even means.

It's easy for any young woman who overhears us to think that this is what it means to be a woman. That it's one misery after another until you die, and I know a lot of women who think this way. It's easy to think that we're meant to have misery, that it's the one thing we all have in common. But what about grace? What about all the things we were meant to be that we also have in common?

What about our loveliness? Do we tell each other how lovely they are? What about our beauty? Does it really come from a bottle and an agonizing routine, or is there something inherent in our beauty? What about our tenderness? Is it really more trouble than it's worth or is it a gift of God we just can't shake? What if we embraced it? What about our strength? We spend so much time living in our seeming disgraces that there's not a lot of room for grace.

It's heartbreaking, really, that we continue to tell our stories in such a way. I want to see us change the way we talk. Not because we don't have trouble fitting into our clothes or struggles when we look in the mirror; we should continue to be honest about such things because we are fallen women. But we're more than fallen; we're also redeemed. And I'd like to see a lot more of this in our language. I'd like to see us talking just as much about our Truths as our troubles. I'd like to see us talking more about what a woman was made to be than what a woman thinks she has to be. 

I'd like to see us talk about laundry and loveliness. About burdens and beauty. About trials and tenderness. About struggles and strength. I'd like to see us bonding over more than our fallen natures; I'd like to see us bonding beyond the curse. I'd like to see us trading our horror stories for narratives of grace, building each other up in all that it means to truly be a woman - fallen, sure, but favored still.

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