Now, I might be out on a limb on this, and if so, I apologise. But over the past few days I’ve talked and met with some incredible, beautiful, talented, strong and wise women, women who are wonderful mothers, daughters, friends, sisters and people. But despite being from different backgrounds and walks of life, they had one thing in common – a deep, paralysing sense of not being good enough. Of being uniquely useless – or as one put it, uniquely sinful. Because here’s the saddest part – it’s not just unbelievers. It’s Christians!
Ladies, why can’t we ‘get’ grace?
You see, this is the part where, after saying how sad it is that some women can’t see how lovely they really are, I talk about how, as a Christian myself, I’ve found total self-acceptance in the love of Christ. But whilst I know this as a truth in my head, I find it so difficult to feel it. And it’s not for lack of good teaching. In fact, some of my biggest struggles where when I was studying full-time at theological college and had a ‘successful’ ministry teaching the gospel to others.
And that’s not to prioritise experience over systematic truth. We’re not how we feel. But at the same time, God has made us as whole people, and our emotions are a part of that. I want to worship Jesus with all of me, not just my mind. I want to see myself and others as He sees me, to be satisfied with His love, to know who I am, not as a self-construct or reflection of other people, but as He has made me.
So who we are in ourselves? Well, let me kick it off…
Even though I’m technically both a woman and a wife – I’m not very good at either. Recently my husband and I did the ‘Star Wars personality test’ (yes, we have far too much time on our hands). Anyway, he came out as being most like Princess Leia, whilst I was the Emporer (who, for those of you who don’t know the film is not only a bloke, but the bossiest, nastiest piece of work in the galaxy). Even at school, the careers computer said that not only did I have the personality of an adolescent boy, but my skills were most suited to being a prison warden.
Now as well as being a bloke trapped in a woman’s body, I’ve more than a sneaking suspicion I’m failing on the whole wife thing too. Our kitchen sink is so grubby its practically got a personality of its own, our fridge (and my husband) is stuffed full of ready meals and I’ve killed everything living in the garden, including a cactus that was supposed to be indestructible.
And while I’m on the subject I may as well tell you that I’m also a deeply superficial person, whose living room and brain is filled with reality TV. Which might mean that my husband’s shirts are never ironed, but if anyone in the parish needs to know about Jordan’s love life, then I’m your woman.
Why am I telling you all this? More self-hatred? Possibly. But, as my nan always said, when you meet someone for the first time it’s only polite to tell them a little bit about yourself. But what about you? If I was to ask you – who are you?, what would you say? And on what basis?
The whole existential ‘who am I?’ thing might feel a bit heavy for a Saturday night, but like it or not, it’s a question we are all faced with, even before we leave the house. In a sense, it’s behind everything we do and every decision we make – what we wear, where we go, whether to walk or drive or even get out of bed. So how would you answer?
It’s not an easy question – even more so, because there seem to be millions of right answers. As I look at all the magazines around our house or switch on the TV or go shopping, everyone seems to be saying something different.
Recently we watched the programme, ‘Who do you think you are?’ which concluded that people are their families. Which is lovely if you were born in the Waltons, but not so great if, like most of us, you’ve spent a large part of your life trying to jump out of the family tree. And perhaps that family tree just needs to be spruced up with a bit of paint work. Or a new wardrobe . You see, those bulging carrier bags represent not just a fashion forward addition to the wardrobe or bargain skirt. They’re the new, improved, Emma. After all, the old one seems to be a bit of a disaster.
So where was I? Ah yes. The new clothes. Lovely. Now all I have to do is fit into them – for as Gillian McKeith says, I am what I eat, right? And with a little bit of surgery I can not only chop bits off but add them on too. (This will come as good news to my mum, who informed our wedding guests that , ‘with that Wonderbra, she should be arrested under the trading standards act’).
But hold on a minute, isn’t all this a bit superficial? After all, if Michelle Pfeiffer can say ‘I’ve got big lips and a bent nose. My face is completely wrecked. I have never been confident about my looks’, then there’s not a lot of hope for the 98% of womankind who are uglier than her. Who cares what’s on the outside? What’s important is who you are on the inside, right? If I can only peel back the layers, ask the right questions and get in touch with the inner me, then I’ll know who I am. Well thank goodness for that.
But here’s a question – what if, when you peel back the layers, there’s nothing there? Even worse, what’s there is someone you don’t want to get to know, someone who’s done a bit of good stuff, but who is also really messed up. Because maybe you’re different, but that’s me.
Complete the following sentence…my life would be perfect if I could just have….what? A perfect body? A different job? A partner? A family? Money? Good health?
Would that really make a difference?