I was twenty years old when I felt God speak to me about my gender.
I am thirty-three years old today, and I’ve felt Him whisper it to me again and again over the years. (Because, I certainly need to be reminded!)
“I made you a girl on purpose, Bonnie. I’m glad that you are a girl.”
Whether you are a man or a woman, your gender carries with it some particular struggles.
I remember when I was 21, on a trip to a mountainous village in rural Peru, I became innately aware of the struggle of being female. I was being stared at by men of all ages, possibly because I was one of a only a handful of white girls. Or possibly for other reasons. Either way, I felt defenseless. There was a language barrier, so I had no snarky words to hide behind. I hadn’t even realized how much I relied on sarcasm to deflect being hit-on when I was home in Canada.
I was grateful that the guys in our team were aware of the situation and wouldn’t let us walk alone, especially at night. At the market, at the ice-cream shop, or walking on those thin, uneven sidewalks, the girls in our group felt the pressure of relentless attention and comments. I didn’t feel flattered; I felt exhausted. During that two-week time span, I reactively came to a place of resisting and even briefly despising my own femininity and beauty.
There was a young girl who lived at the hostel where we were staying. She was such a cute little thing, probably only 5 or 6 years old. Caramel colored skin, deep brown eyes, and a shy smile. I would look for her every morning as we headed out for the day.
I remember looking at her one time and wondering, “What will happen to you as you grow into a beautiful woman? Will you feel targeted?”
All that pressure.
Some women feel tempted to permanently sabotage their own beauty or despise their bodies, because it brings them unwanted attention.
There can be a temptation to stop caring about appearance, or to hide beneath unflattering clothing, or resist all things feminine. They may even abandon healthy eating and exercise because of it.
I’ve also heard some girls say, “I know that I’ll never be beautiful, so I figure, why bother trying?” It’s like, “I’ll reject myself before you do, so that I won’t have to feel the sting.” You can’t lose a game that you opt out of, right? Some feel like if they ATTEMPTED to be beautiful, they would make a fool of themselves or be teased for their efforts.
Other women may opt to use their power to attract as a way to control the men and women around them.
They feel the thrill of gaining attention and managing a room with their flirtatious behavior or the sexual tension that they cultivate. They fall prey to a mindset of constant comparison and competition with other females. They strive and strain in order to stay attractive, and may even hate how the passage of time shows up on their face and in their body. To look in the mirror and see that the flower of youth is fading feels catastrophic, because without external youthful beauty, they aren’t sure how to connect to people.
In this midst of these conflicting views, you need to know that you are more than your body. More than your external beauty.
Neither of those things are the real problem, but I know that it can feel that way. Your value is in your personhood. I think that is primarily what God was telling me all those years ago.
“I see who you are. Beneath the surface.”
Why did God give this unique beauty to the female gender? Women were designed to be such strong creatures, and yet also, have the potential to gently nurture and bring life to those around us. This is the nature of all beauty. When unexploited, by self or by others, true beauty becomes a place of joy and rest.
There is an external beauty that is undeniable, but it is shallow in comparison with the internal beauty that is forged in the fires of trial and suffering. There is a deep beauty of soul, when someone chooses servanthood and humility in an insecure world. This type of beauty transcends the years, shines out of a person’s eyes, and alters the atmosphere of a room.
I believe that God has called us as women, to find a way to navigate the culture’s pulling tide and cultivate our beauty without using it as a weapon to control or as a wall to hide behind.
Your beauty is not a curse. Being a woman is a good thing.
If this post resonates with you, and you’d like to ask God for help to overcome some painful mindsets, please continue on to find ideas of how you can pray:
For those who have rejected their beauty:
God, I don’t want to reject my beauty anymore. It has brought me pain.
I’m sorry that I’ve hated and rejected who You’ve made me to be. Please help me see the innate beauty that You’ve put in me. I want to take care of this body that You’ve given me, and reflect Your nature in my decisions.
I am sorry for comparing myself with the women around me, and not trusting Your design of my face, body, and personality.
Please heal my heart from all the pain of rejection, both from myself and from others.
For those who have exploited or over-emphasized their beauty:
God, I don’t want to use my external beauty as a weapon or defense anymore. That has also brought me pain.
I’m sorry that I’ve used this gift of beauty to control or manipulate others. I’m sorry that I’ve critiqued and hated parts of who I am. I don’t want to strive for an image of perfection anymore. I also don’t want to feel the pressure to be constantly aware of my sexuality in order to attract.
Please heal me from memories of how the “game” went wrong, and forgive me for when I did things that I didn’t really want to do in order to get the affection I thought I wanted.
I don’t want to fear aging; please help me see that my beauty is more than external.