Yesterday I read this remarkable post by Ann Voskamp and then spent the next 30 minutes or so having one of those ugly crying moments. The post is written to her eldest son but the way in which she describes women left me in tears. Weeping because I realized that much of what she said about how men in society fail to value women reflects how I see myself.
When the prevailing thinking is boys will be boys — girls will be garbage
Girls will be garbage. That’s how I saw myself for so long. I didn’t have those words to use but they still describe how I felt. And how could I not when man after man after man, came and took from me whatever they wanted without choosing to care what it might mean for my soul. The fact I gave to them, doesn’t negate the fact that they took from me and in the process robbed me of feeling that I mattered, that I was valuable.
Until I read those words I never realized that every lustful look from a man, every sneering innuendo, every sexually charged word broke something in me, tore down how I valued myself as a woman. They saw me as nothing more than something to be objectified, to be taken, to be used to amuse their lust. And, because I had no voices that helped me learn otherwise, I believed what they said and saw myself in the same light. They named and defined me with their looks and their words and I put on their label, dressed myself in their image of me. Too afraid to fight back; not knowledgeable enough to know I could; no one around me to show me how; no one around me to breathe life or value into my soul. Instead I took responsibility for their actions. I was told it was my job to be pure and modest, so when that one came and wanted to take from me, I assumed I had done something to make him think he could so there was no going back, I had to see it through to the end. And the lie took root in that moment. And each one who came after and took, forced that seed further into the soil of my soul: This is all you will ever be, this is all that any man will think you worthy of. You are good enough to be taken in the dark but never good enough to be seen in the light. And I believed them. I played the role they wanted me to play and they gave me what I wanted. But it wasn’t what I really wanted. I wanted to be loved, to be cared for, to be told I mattered, that I was valuable. But all they gave me was their attention for however long it took for them to get what they wanted. Then they discarded me like the trash I believed deep down I really was. And for too many years I wore their label of “not good enough for anything else”.
I thought I had worked through all of this; thought I was past believing these lies but they have come up again. The profound sense that I am not good enough has risen up in my head and heart again. But with the lies, like the wheat along with the tares, truth is rising up and I am choosing to do the hard work of pulling out the tares so the wheat can thrive. Ann’s blog and dozens of others, like this one, that are coming across my path are exposing the lies in my heart, locating the seeds in my soul’s soil and rooting them out so truth can take their place. The truth that I matter, that I am loveable, that I am worth knowing and worth loving, the truth that I have intrinsic value because of who I am and not at all for what I do. I wept last night because I saw how deep the wounds of those men cut into me. It was like pulling the scab off a wound I thought had healed only to discover that it was still raw underneath. Her words opened up those wounds again last night but this opening up allows the breath of the Holy Spirit to breathe on them and bring real healing. For a long time I wore the identity given to me by others but I’m shaking off those names and rising into who the Father says I am. His label is the only one I’m interested in wearing from now on.