She stares back at me in the mirror. The dark hollowed eyes, the rounded face, the heavy thighs, the slumped over posture. I know the contours of her well. I despise her most of the time. She doesn’t look like I think she ought to, and she knows it. I tell her all the time, she is not good enough. Not good enough to deserve care, to deserve gentleness, to deserve grace. I have shamed her and condemned her, mostly glowered at her.
Most of the time, I hate her.
She is not beautiful. She is not called.
When I see her looking back at me, I see the wounds my shame and insecurity have inflicted on her. I tell myself she doesn’t mind my abuse, she deserves it really. See those c-section scars? Proof she failed me as a woman. See those extra pounds? She has no self control. See those dark eyes? All of those years of insomnia worked out on her face. See the way her hair curls the wrong way? Evidence she never learned how to style it. She deserves my rejection. I cannot trust her, and she cannot trust me.
And so, we remain; at war with one another. I am both the abuser and the victim, and neither of us are free.
I look away but am pulled back again. I am repulsed and yet curious. If she were a stranger, how would I see her? How would I speak to her? Would I see the humour behind her eyes? Would I draw out the tenderness and depth that I see in her smile? Would I lean in to hear her journey? Would I cheer on her resilience and cry over all she has lost from time and grief?
Strangers earn more affection from me than my own flesh.
So, for this moment, I will try to make a connection. I will pretend we are strangers and newfound friends. I will imagine I can see behind the broken-down imperfect flesh and introduce myself to this person in front of me.
“Body, meet soul.”
I see you. I see all that has assailed you, and you are still worthy of my attention. I see how your small stature barely holds back the life bursting out of you. I see the curiosity lighting up your eyes. I see the softness of hands rubbed raw from caring for the dying and the breathing alike. I see the creativity that grew dim within you but is rising again in you like a fire, warming your cheeks. I see the sun-browned skin of an explorer. I see the strength of limbs that have carried children across floors and continents. I see the fierceness of a gaze that has set itself against the winds of discouragement and remains, unmoved.
Just like that, she becomes a new person staring back at me. She may not be perfect. She may be broken but the beauty is there shining through. Not one strand of her hair was not planned. Not one wrinkle of her skin is without a worthy story. She deserves the grace that her life was bought for. She deserves more than my rejection and shame. She deserves life spoken over her. She deserves thankfulness and hope that the brokenness etched on her flesh does not define her, it is the very cracks from which God’s glory shines through. She deserves, in the very least, a look of love, and a posture of reconciliation.
I linger a little longer in the mirror and turn my head ever so slightly.
“It’s nice to meet you.”
My name is Shannon, I am a mother of 4 and a nurse by profession, but I am currently unearthing my creative soul which I have buried under the rubble of years of shame and fear. I love writing metaphorical narrative and am on the journey to try to publish my first book and re-launch my blog. God keeps using my writing to explore the themes of waiting, grieving, calling, beauty, and hope. I come from Vancouver, Canada but my family and I are currently living abroad in Malawi, Africa. You can me writing here.
Hi Shannon, Powerful. Your words so beautifully described the war we wage against ourselves over our imperfections. I especially loved the lines, “She deserves life spoken over her. She deserves thankfulness and hope that the brokenness etched on her flesh does not define her, it is the very cracks from which God’s glory shines through.”
I’m thankful that your body and soul are reconciling and that God’s glory is able to shine through.. Beautifully written. I hope you will continue to share your words with us. Blessings.
Barbara, Thanks so much for your encouragement. This is probably one of the hardest articles I’ve written. I’ve been on a journey and part of that journey is penning words for the inner world I often hide behind. I just launched a new blog space if you want to read more! https://www.shannonbrink.org/ But I hope to share more in this space- thanks for having me!
This is an amazing piece. I love what you do here, and how you call us to address our bodily selves from a place of humanity and grace. Thank you – I’m so grateful I got to read this and can ponder it!
Claudia- Thanks so much for your encouragement and comment! When I take a step back it seems so strange that I talk so differently to myself than everyone else. It’s crazy how hard we are on ourselves and so often it’s a hidden world we don’t share but it’s so difficult to start changing our internal conversations. Thanks for reading! You can read more at https://www.shannonbrink.org/
The woman in the opening photo is a woman of deep retrospect. I’m glad as I kept reading to find the woman who is powerful to forgive and forge a healing path for herself. Many times I’ve stated “I’m my own worst enemy;” makes it tough on us. Keep letting “Body” and “soul” meet. From your healing words after the introduction, it is restorative for you. Thank goodness for grace.
Wow, Thanks Bess! This was certainly painful and healing to write at the same time.
Hi Shannon. Thank you for sharing so beautifully and authentically. You have encouraged me to reintroduce myself to my soul…and to look upon that soul with love, compassion, tenderness, respect, curiosity and kindness. Thank you. May you be blessed as you bless others.
This is so poignantly and beautifully written. Thank you for risking sharing this part of your soul.