Friday, January 7, 2011

The shame of hidden shame

On a blog I frequent I saw this comment, on a post about what age women started their periods, that broke my heart. I'll let you read it and then I'll explain why. (I am not editing it for spelling or anything. These are her words.)

"It was two and a half weeks before my 11th birthday. It happened at school in the middle of gym class. I went to a strict Christian school (it was co-ed, but there were a lot of rules to separate guys and girls). We hadn’t had “the talk” yet and I had no idea what was happening to me. There were no tampon or pad dispensors though I wouldn’t have known what to do with one if it had been around. I thought that I had hurt my insides, but I felt strangely embarrassed to reveal what had happened to me, so I cut my arm, and asked for some gauze from the medbasket (the nurse wasn’t always around, so there was a medical basket in the office supplied with gauze, bandaids, aspirin and the like) then I hid in the washroom trying to decide how to stem the bleeding. I never told my mother what happened and she never explained to me that these changes were natural or what other changes to expect. I am the oldest girl in my family, but I have several older brothers who always seemed embarrassed by a woman’s body. To this day, the female body and the fact that I have one, makes me uncomfortable."

I have experienced the pain in this woman's words to a degree but not this severely. This woman is uncomfortable simply being who she was made to be. She was created by God as a woman. As a treasure and one of His crowning achievements. And yet she is embarrassed to be a woman. Her family and the Christian community around her completely failed her. That may sound harsh but its true.

She was not told what to expect from her body, EVER! She was young when she began her period but she was never told what was going on. Who knows how long it took her to figure out that what was happening was normal and healthy. Did she think she was dying for that entire week as a child? Did she think she had some awful disease when it began again the next month? She had to navigate a minefield of emotions alone. Alone. No advice on what kinds of products to use, no reassurances that she was ok and that every woman deals with this, nothing. Totally alone. At ten years old.

As an adult she is still uncomfortable with being a woman and having a body that God gave her to gift to her husband. To enjoy along with her husband in ecstasy. Instead she is ashamed. Ashamed to be something that reflects part of God. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. Genesis 1:27

She is like so many women who believe, thanks to the church, that its evil to be a woman, to be beautiful. She feels that its wrong to feel beautiful. Girls growing up in the church are taught, directly or by impression, to be  "good little church girls." To do so means to be a prude, overly modest (even when married and in private), have no desire for a man and that sex is wrong in all contexts. I dealt with this on a much smaller scale than she did and still is. It hurt me! I struggled the first several years of my marriage to shed the wrong belief that to be sexual with my husband was wrong. I still feel it crop up now and then but for the most part I know that I am free to love my husband and be loved by him. Free to be desired and feel beautiful and even sexy.

But this poor woman still hasn't felt that relief. I am betting that there are thousands of other women out there that feel the way she does. Her brothers! They were also embarrassed by women. I feel so sorry for any women they were ever interested in that actually had a healthy view of who they were in God.

This kind of abuse to women must stop! The church and those claiming to represent God have to stop telling women and girls that they are something to be hidden. If you have a daughter please let her know she is beautiful and never tell her she has to hide her body. Yes, teach her healthy modesty but stay away from shame. Women are beautiful. Every single one. We were made to be. We were made to be loved by God and a good man. Made to be treated with respect, not with disdain or embarrassment.

You are beautiful. You are loved by the God who made you, were created last. Not as an afterthought but as a magnum opus. Creation was not fully good until he made you. Man was alone and it was not good. "The LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him." Genesis 2:18

Please remember that you are loved and treasured and you need to allow yourself to be; by God and by your husband if you have one. If you don't yet have a husband then begin to learn this now so that when the time comes you can be free to be loved the way God intended you to be.

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