I believe this is long overdue. Countless times before, I have struggled with how to properly honor you, how to approach your presence in a way that was both God- and self-honoring. And it seems everyone has something to say about you: the state of your appearance, your femininity, your fitness, your allure. Both secular and religious alike make you a battle ground for their thoughts and ideas.
We have been through a lot. You have weathered years of growth, hearty laughter, savage tears, slingshot weight gain and loss, harsh environments and nearly lost the battle to life-threatening illness. We have learned together, lost together, loved together, prayed together, doubted together, and still believed. And though we have many years left, I already can trace our story in the scars and stretchmarks that are like sporadically painted sunbursts across you. You are the temple that houses my liberated, immortal spirit; and yet so frequently I have forgotten to love you.
You are criticized for your ability to allure and capture attention; made out to be the keeper of others’ chastity, as those very others forget to honor and see you as part of me. Your natural sexuality might as well be for all to comment on and dictate (if, indeed, its existence is acknowledged), while men are hardly reprimanded for the way in which they abuse you and conduct themselves with impunity. Shame is your brand.
Simultaneously, you are made out to be a figure of pleasure. Your sexuality or lack thereof is the business of the world for scorn or praise, but never your own. Because we are female, we can also be viewed as less. Some say we are too weak to be leaders or provide for ourselves, that a man must be our head in order to preserve us; that our “natural state” and connection with emotions and spirituality make us hysterical and without much guiding sense.
And so now, I am taking my own stance, for your sake and mine.
Some claim divinity has made us inferior, but in the eyes of the Savior, I know things to be different. We recall how we were made perfectly and innocently bare in Eden; how Hebrew women marked the lineage of the Messiah and liberated their people; how the women surrounding Jesus were loved, honored, and made equal in His sight; and how they have carried the legacies of their faith and peoples throughout the ages. That God so loved us that He would die to redeem any stain on our person: past, present, or future. In His sight, we are not shameful, inferior, or the object of others’ opinions. We are ourselves, God’s beloved children, as we were intended.
Our liberation lies not in libido or concealment, but in the acceptance of God’s grace and love. If we are indeed created in love by a celestial being that sees and cares, then surely we are made whole long before anyone could state otherwise.
Your presence, appearance, and fragility does not bring me shame.
You are worth more than modesty arguments and measurements of how much clothing does or does not cover you. The heart that beats within and the divinity that cherishes it are the true witnesses to your worth. The thoughts of the mind link me, the spirit, to you, the corporeal.
There will always be criticisms, but now I can say that we will walk in a new way. Before, I might have bowed in disgrace or felt the burn of humiliation in my cheeks at your sight in the mirror or a photograph. But no longer.
This is my promise:
to honor you; to care for you; to treat you as holy and worthy, outside of the comments of humankind; that image and state does not change your worthiness of love and devotion; and to always remember that I bear the privilege of seeing to your health all the days of my mortal life.
And so I will walk in liberty, decorate you or enjoy our most bare nature. Time and the earth will make brushstrokes across us, and God will guide our path and provide our connection and crowning glories.
No one has the right to say we are a lesser being. We have been made worthy through love. And I intend to live that way.
Author: S.A. Borders-Shoemaker
Author Bio: S.A. Borders-Shoemaker is a PhD Candidate at George Mason University’s School of Conflict Analysis & Resolution. Through her studies, life experiences living abroad, and volunteer/activist work, Borders-Shoemaker seeks to explore the complexity and paradoxes of the world. She has two published poems, “For Keats” and ”The Law of Thermodynamics,” as well as another article at Harness Magazine, “My Janes Who Fought Dragons,” and several academic publications.
Link to social media or website: Instagram @sabordersshoemaker