Saturday, July 19, 2008

Possess your vessel with honor

From time to time, a reader will email me and share a bit of their story and ask me to share my perspective on something that's heavy on their heart. I'm honored by this and I offer what I can when I feel like I have something to offer. And I will wait until I feel I have something honorable and good and relevant to say that I feel ready to share. This is one of those times. And this sweet woman (I'll call her D) gave me permission to post my answer to her here. So D darlin', this is for you.

SW wrote~
Of course, the safe and legit way to meet this need is for you to start owning and possessing your body in an honorable way and feeling your beauty and directing it towards your husband.

D wrote~

And this is the issue. Since I've had no "model" I'm wondering where to go with all this. What is honorable in thoughts? Now I know we are to not lust after others which I feel I have a handle on, but how are we to handle male attention? I struggle with this and I've observed other women struggle (my sister) to the point of abusing their alluring power so to speak. I don't want to do this as I have in the past and this is my greatest fear. The "emotional" need that arises in me when I've felt a man's attention is scary to me. What is this and what causes it? I don't want to be afraid of myself, my body or my looks. I want to be proud of who I am and care about the beauty that HE created in me. As a Christian woman with principles I would never dream of betraying my husband, but the thought of being thin and beautiful (I'm not trying to brag here, but I'm large and still get alot of attention and when I was thinner I got more attention then I ever cared for.) has been too difficult for me to deal with~to the point my heart is saying just make it go away~self rejection. I know God is leading me to deal with this now and is renewing me. I thank HIM for women like you.

And yes, you have my permission to share whatever you think may be helpful.

Blessings to you,

I offer my reply~

What a courageous bighearted woman, Miss D!
So many things come to mind.
First of all, I understand the fearing male attention.
I used to feel like I had a target painted on my back and every predator and perpetrator would somehow know I was easy prey.
I also used to fear my own heart. Fear that when my heart responded to male attention that I was at risk for sinning. That's a valid fear. It's good to want to flee temptation. But it's also good to not jettison a blessing from God. Here's what works for me. I started to see God as the one romancing me and the people in my life as his vendors he sent to take care of me. Obviously my Delighted Husband is one of God's preferred vendors God most often uses in my life to bless me. (And I know this goes without saying, but just to be clear, Delighted Husband is the ONLY man that God uses to meet my sexual needs.)

But my husband is not the only channel God uses to bless me and encourage me. That's a whole nother article! Your spouse can't be the beall endall and only source of emotional support in your life. My point is, even when it comes to affirmation and complements from a good man I am not married to, I take them as a gift from God. Let me give an example.

About a year ago, I had just started an exercise routine. It was hard to take that first step and I had been working out just maybe a couple of months or so. I was still in the throes of emotional eating and trying to break free of that so life was a real struggle in that season. I had a week where my exercise was good but my eating was not good. I felt fat and depressed and just generally blah. I was on my way home from exercise class and I had to stop and get gas. I felt very uneasy and embarrassed about this because I was already feeling fat and here I was out in public in my sweaty running tights and tank top. But I had to get gas. Had to. My tank was on empty.

So I'm standing there at the gas pump feeling all mlehhh when the man at the pump facing me says something. I don't hear what he says cause I am so preoccupied with my negative self talk. I look up and say "excuse me?" and he repeats what he said earlier. This man (who did not look like the Unabomber) looks me straight in the face and in a calm low sincere voice says, "You're beautiful." Without conscious thought, I smiled and said "thank you!" and then felt shy and turned back to my gas pump. The man, a clean cut man wearing Dockers and a golf shirt, said "Are you married?" Again, without conscious thought I blurted out the first thing that came to my mind, "Very!" and I smiled as I always do when I talk about my husband. That word 'very' spoke volumes. The man's face fell and this reinforced in my mind that his complement and his interest was genuine. Then I felt quite shy and momentarily overwhelmed by this. I'm not used to having people's faces fall when they talk to me. It's pretty normal for me to enjoy bringing a smile to the people I meet. But I couldn't lie to the nice man and I was staggered by the weight of the compliment. I blushed and looked at the gas pump. When I looked up two seconds later to say thank you the man was gone. That's when I figured out this was a God thing.

I got in my car and drove away and the first thing I did was look up at the blue sky overhead and say to God "You are really going out of your way to affirm me, sending me a messenger to tell me I'm beautiful when I'm all sweaty in my gym clothes at the gas station!" and I just laughed at the generosity of God and received His affirmation.

I did not lay awake nights wondering who this man was and plotting to show up at the same time at the same gas station in hopes of running into him again. I just enjoyed what for me felt entirely like a sweet complement from God when I was all down and feeling crummy with my body image.

You see what I mean?

One more thing.
One of the meanest things the villain in the story does is try to make us feel guilty for having our God-given needs. Not even guilt about how we may or may not have those needs met but I'm talkin' about feeling guilty for having the need in the first place. I believe with all my heart that it is a normal God-given need for a woman to feel beautiful and to want someone to notice she is beautiful. Obviously, there are i
mportant boundaries that need to be in place, but receiving an admiring glance when you're walking to your table in a restaurant or hearing a sincere complement at church when someone notices your new dress or tells you with a wordless smile that you look fabulous, there is nothing wrong with that. Receive the affirmation as a gift from God. To me, the potential for sin or blessing is all in your mind. Do you immediately send out your gratitude to God thanking Him for affirming you? Or do you start imagining inappropriate behavior with the person who just gave you the complement?

Now, let's not be foolish here. Women have to be wise and develop a keen sense of the Holy Spirit warning them. We don't want to be seduced by some smooth talkin' player. But a random complement affirming you in the area of your life you've been praying about? Yes, I believe that can be God giving us a taste of The Sacred Romance.

That's how I take it anyway.


Cocotte said...

Very well said, SW! Women should never be ashamed of their bodies/beauty and be afraid to receive compliments from anyone.

Who am I said...

This is a wonderful post.

You also remind me of my wife when you talk about your ups and downs and struggles with weight, body image, male attraction, etc. You say bits and pieces I have heard from her in the past which helps me have more insight into her.

I can not tell you how much you have inspired me to really enjoy God's creation again. Last night I drove about 400 miles from 4:30 in the afternoon until after midnight.

I rolled down the windows for miles and enjoyed the breeze against my face. I drank in the smell of hay- in fact I often smelled it before I could see it. I really enjoyed the sunset over the hills. I tried to really just enjoy God's creation through the senses he has given me.

bethstedman said...

Sensuous wife - thank you for sharing this and "D" thank you for allowing your story to be shared. I got teary reading this - it really resonated with me - thank you.

Howard said...

A really insightful post.
It's so important that we understand and value the gifts that God has bestowed which are good simply because He made them so.
As a fine art photographer, I've come to realize that one 'gift' I'm able to encourage by my work is to allow those in front of my lens to re-gain lost confidence. This is often crucial to those who have been 'used and abused' by others or life in general - it's all part of affirming we are MADE in His image, and we ARE valuable.

StuK said...

I find this interesting that you are directing to vulnerability to receive affirmation - don't want to miss those moments do we! AND we so often can because we are conditioned to think the worst, especially in those scary male-female encounters. I remember hearing second hand about a "revelation" received by a female college and career associate (that goes back so far...I am surprised I remember!). She was talking to the woman who became my wife, saying she was wondering what my angle was - going out of my way to affirm, admire, whatever. Then she realized: he doesn't have an angle. He just does it.

These interactions can be precarious. Be prepared to be shot down, brushed off, dismissed. OTOH, when you are wondering where the encouraging words are, you should take a look at how, or even *if*, you (whether male or female) receive them.