Decluttering part four: Being the beautiful and beloved.

He tells me I’m beautiful. Whispers it to me as we snuggle on the couch, smooths back my hair. I look down. Fourteen years and I still doubt these words. Maybe doubt them more now than ever. I don’t see it. What he says he still sees. What he pleads with me to understand and accept.

There is a comfort now. An intimacy born out of long years filled with sorrows etched deep, joy brimming, and oh, so much forgiveness. We are a match. A union forged through the fire.  I know that deep down. I know his commitment to me and his steady faithfulness even when I’ve been fickle. And truthfully, it’s not his love that I doubt, but my worth to be the loved. 

I  know that this is not who I really am. I am shocked when I see pictures of myself and I think, “How did that happen? How did I let it come to this?”  My insides don’t match my  outsides. I look like I have been swallowed whole by this fat suit. And I am never as aware as when we are a couple. 

When we are out as a family, kids in tow, running errands or out to dinner, my focus is on my children.  We fit because we aren’t functioning as man and wife, romantically, intimately. We are functioning as a unit, a family. We aren’t solely man and woman. We are mom and dad.

But when there are candles lit, music playing softly in the background, couples with heads bent across tables and lingering glances, I recoil. Date night has dwindled over the years. I am ashamed to say it is my  insecurity alone that has caused me to prefer an evening in pj’s by the fire or snuggling on the couch to a night out. And that would be  fine if that’s all it was, a preference. I’ve always been more laid back and fancy dinners seem like a lot of work and money wasted. With finances being tight and 3 children, we have spent more and more time this way. I have excused this behavior for all of these reasons, and as a natural introvert, it seems feasible.

But I also know that this feeling extends to social events, gatherings, and outings where we would attend as a couple. It has hindered my ability to joyfully accompany my husband and I’ve deprived him of my presence so many times because I am just not emotionally up for it. 

alia

I have felt the judgmental looks, the questioning glances. “What is he doing with her?” I’m ashamed to say I’ve thought it before of others. It’s not as rare to see a beautiful woman with a less attractive man, in fact I would say it is fairly common. But in our society, it is much rarer to see a handsome man with an overweight or less attractive woman. There is a natural questioning that seems to happen. “How did that happen? Did he marry her fat or did she gain weight after? I wonder what he saw in her.” I know some people will say that it is solely my insecurity talking and people don’t really think that way but I assure you many do.  Because here is the truth of the matter. We do judge, at least initially, by the outside appearance.

I cannot say often enough how much I consider beauty a powerful and advantageous quality. Socrates called it “A short tyranny,” and Plato,’~The privilege of nature.” We have no quality that surpasses it in credit. It holds the first place in human relations; it presents itself before the rest, seduces and prepossesses our judgment with great authority and a wondrous impression.
–Montaigne, Essays

And what is it all really but vanity? Even writing these words, it all seems so silly. Yet there it is, my heart.

I am less of a wife, not because of my appearance, but because I am so totally consumed by myself. My own selfishness and constant insecurity is like a plague. At times, mastered but never defeated.  Silly and ridiculous but nevertheless present.

I don’t have a pithy anecdote or a simple answer to this dilemma of self. I am a work in progress.

It’s always so much easier to write from a place of accomplishment. To plant our victory flag and  speak of the things we have conquered, mastered, and can now impart our wisdom to the masses. It is infinitely harder to blog from the trenches. To crouch down and hope to avoid the weapons still being blasted at you. To admit your fear that this war will never cease-fire, that this battle will rage on and you will be forever cowering.

trenches barbed wire

photo credit by jinterwas

I don’t know yet how God will work in these places. I do know that I am willing to let Him and that confessing my heart is the only way to allow Him in.  Maybe I’ll start by accepting Josh’s compliment. By saying “Thank you” when he offers those words, “You are beautiful,” and praying that someday God will heal me to believe it. To truly be the beloved. 

 

 How do you accept compliments? Do you accept them when they are based on things you accomplish more than how you look? How has God shown you that you are beautiful? I’d love to hear how God is working in your life. I always love to get comments and see how you are doing with these areas of your lives.

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Comments

  1. Julie Watts says

    Okay Alia… you did it again … tears again. God will bless you with your transparency. Healing comes with telling your story. Believe me you are more than relatable.

    • Alia Joy says

      I think it’s both sad and encouraging that so many women can relate. On one hand it’s so sad that we allow our insecurity to rob us and yet it’s encouraging to know we are never alone in it. Thanks for sharing your reaction. I’m glad I’m not telling my story in a vacuum.

  2. Heidi Stone says

    “But in our society, it is much rarer to see a handsome man with an overweight or less attractive woman. There is a natural questioning that seems to happen. “How did that happen? Did he marry her fat or did she gain weight after? I wonder what he saw in her.”

    You read my mail. I think that often. Don’t really have resolution and, after being together 18 years, you’d think I’d believe him. Just between us? I still doubt. His eyesight. :)

    I know you didn’t write this to get affirmation, although I know that is often what happens when we put our naked hearts on display. But you are beautiful. In so many important ways. Your character, your integrity, your family. As well as being a lovely, quirky woman that I’m really enjoying getting to know.

    • Alia Joy says

      Aww, I am really enjoying getting to know you as well. I know rationally that there is no reason to really care about these things in a superficial way and I am never lacking in great friends who are totally affirming but it’s those voices we drown out in favor of our inner critic who is always accusing us with the less than. I suppose it’s just one of those processes that continues. I am not as insecure as I was in my twenties, even though I looked a heck of a lot better then. So I guess that’s progress. I’m really looking forward to my 50′s. LOL

  3. HannahRuthie says

    Something hit me recently, that maybe you would appreciate. I’ve always considered myself and my situation to be “medium.” Attractiveness? Eh. Not fat, not thin. Medium. Clothing & hair? I avoid hats, jewelry, anything extra that may stand out–medium. Bank account? Bills are paid, but nothing left over for anything fancy: (http://cullenfamilyunit.wordpress.com/2010/11/15/sexy-date-night/). Medium.

    It rarely felt like enough, this purgatory. It’s my own “fat suit.” I treat it as an insulator, an “if no one can see me than no judgements will be made about me” kind of thing. Unless you know me, then you get rambling comments like this one. But recently the table was turned on this. It’s not “medium,” it’s just enough. For so many reasons and so many lessons to be taught, for me, “just enough” has been what I can handle, and where I can learn. 3 years ago too much $$, for example, would have kept me from leaning into faith and focused my attention away from the grace God needed to teach me about. Sooo good. Humility is the medium where I could be pliable & teachable. Such an amazing thing.

    Love to you. Thanks for your words.

    • Alia Joy says

      That’s so interesting. I guess it’s like Paul saying he has learned contentment in any and every situation. It sounds like you have learned to see God in the medium. Not too rich, lest I be distracted and have no need of You. Not too poor, lest I forsake and curse You. Our hearts can be so fickle. I tend to press in in out of desperation. I am so stubborn and it’s hard for me to let go of my own self-reliance, unless I am left with no other choice. Sometimes, I think that’s why this battle has been so hard to fight. It does require action but first my heart has to be changed. I tend to be all self motivated action or nothing at all. Balance is the ever unattainable goal. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this. I am so glad that God has used these circumstances to draw you to Him. I am blessed by your honesty in your walk.

  4. Sarah says

    I admire your honesty Alia, and your vulnerability! I know that’s hard to do sometimes! Man, this stuff is so hard to work through, but I am so glad to see that God is stirring your heart and leading you to a place of healing and becoming lost in Him. I know that so much of the answer to these things comes from truly finding yourself in Christ and as we do that He builds our confidence because it is in Him alone that we can boast. So much of these things fade when we find ourselves in Him, yet it’s such a tough road. And sometimes long. It takes perseverance and strength to keep getting back up when we fall or feel like we can’t keep going. But like you said before, He’s always there to take us up in His arms.

    Insecurity, does it ever truly go away? Outward appearance may hinder us more, but so much of it is inward and not outward. We could have the perfect body, yet feel all these same feelings. We see that to be true everywhere. I know that’s what you’re saying too. And I think, like any deep rooted thing in us, things we’ve carried since childhood or coping mechanisms that have been there for as long as we can remember, they may fade, but I doubt they ever truly become invisible. Certain things may always be a struggle for us, but I am confident that the more we are sanctified and the more we are made into the beautiful image of our Maker, the dimmer and dimmer these things will become. The more real heaven will be, the more clearly we will see that finish line glimmering in the distance like an oasis in this dry and dreary land. Like the hymn says:

    Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
    Look full in His wonderful face,
    And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
    In the light of His glory and grace.

    On a side note, you have always been one of the most beautiful women I know.

    • Alia Joy says

      Thanks Sarah. Gosh, you sure are mushy on here. LOL. Thanks for helping me in this journey. God has made you someone I can always be real with and know that you honor my vulnerability and realness with compassion, empathy, and caring. Love you, dear sister.

      • Sarah says

        Love you too! I guess I’m better at getting out my thoughts and feelings on paper than talking! Mushy, me? Who would of thought, huh? LOL!

    • Alia Joy says

      Yes, you are loved by God. Something we all need to remember.Thanks for visiting my blog and taking the time to leave a comment. :)

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