So despite the above picture, the other day I appeared in a photoshoot. Yes, you read it right, I was in a real life photoshoot. Flashing camera, a nice white backdrop, the weird blindingly white flash that makes the back of your eyes ache, costume changes, the whole thing. To be fair, it was so that I might potentially appear in my university’s new recruitment campaign, and my photos might not even be selected, but I still did it anyway.
Anyone who knows me well enough will know that the whole idea of someone who doesn’t know me taking photos of me is just, well, massively scary and really not okay. I don’t like not knowing what other people see on the other end of lens; all I could see was everyone else in the room staring at me, and immediately I felt overweight, over-dressed (like posh, not in the sense I needed to show my bra off or anything, ha) and massively over-vulnerable. The other people in that room I’m sure maybe had some insecurities of their own, and as much as I repeated that to myself to try and keep myself relatively calm, I was still finding that I was shaking with nerves and felt so emotionally drained at the end of it. I think I came home and cried.
But anyway. Why am I telling you this? You’re probably reading this wondering why on earth I did the photoshoot if it was going to put this kind of emotional stress on me. Well, as much as I was to-ing and fro-ing about the whole thing, that’s pretty much the assumption I came too as well. But the thing is, this year with Jesus, as much as I’ve drifted and as much as I’ve come back slightly more remorseful and expectant than the last time around, I’ve also seen where I can be pushed to do things that will challenge and test me. If you’re an avid reader of my weird little blog, or you’ve just heard me talk about it before, you’ll know that I gave up makeup for Lent last year, and ended up writing a whole blog series about my experiences of going sans makeup. Well, it was kind of like the first day of doing that again, where I felt scared and vulnerable about the world and how the real world might see me – it was all a bit shaky and frightening, but I did it. And, if I’m honest, as scary and as unattractive as that whole experience was (sorry Milan, but you won’t see me on a catwalk any time soon), I did fall into bed that night with an overwhelming sense of God’s love for me. It was as if he was just saying to me, in amidst my tired tears and my frustrated-ness at whatever it was I was worrying about, that he loved me and that I really was beautiful. It’s a different kind of camera that catches beauty with God. It’s not one that has to flash so brightly to hide the bags under your eyes, or when you have to stand a certain angle so you look “more streamlined”, it’s just a camera that sees you. No touch-ups, no Photoshop. Just God.
It was after this whole experience that the words “a model woman” came to me. I wasn’t sure why, and I thought hmm, what a nifty title for a blog, so here it is. I was looking to the Bible, kind of wondering well, if God’s lens is a different lens, then what kind of things do I need to be doing or saying if I want to be a proper woman of God?
As always with biblical and godly women, Proverbs 31 comes to mind. I won’t post it all, but in a few bits as it’s quite long (usually in church I get kinda annoyed when people cut things out, but I’m not even sure if you’re reading anymore so I’ll just go with it instead). But it got me thinking, and at the same time slightly worried, because I don’t match up to the superwoman I’ve found here:
“A wife of noble character who can find?
She is worth far more than rubies.
Her husband has full confidence in her
and lacks nothing of value.
She brings him good, not harm,
all the days of her life
…She gets up while it is still night;
she provides food for her family
and portions for her female servants
…She is clothed with strength and dignity;
she can laugh at the days to come
…Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
Honor her for all that her hands have done,
and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.”
Proverbs 31: 10-12; 15; 25; 30-31
So in my Annie way, I made a check-list to compare:
- Noble character
- Husband required
- Getting up in the small hours
- Dresses well (I know it means metaphorically, don’t freak out)
- Loves God
So. A slight extra bit of background to this blog post is that I got massively angry about singleness in church the other day. It was another reason I cried, because I’m tired and quite frankly a little hormonal and I just want to eat all of the pizza and ice cream in the world (I think we can already take “noble character” off the list, eh?). I didn’t cry because I’m single, but I was crying because it seemed like I felt all of the hurt that some single people have felt before in church, or just in Christian communities generally.
Before I go any further, I need to just say that I’m not slagging off anyone and I’m not having a go at anyone in particular. I’m just observing what I’ve seen so far, and maybe sometimes how much that’s made things all the more difficult for those involved. After Lent, I had a bit of a break in my series and then I started writing (with the help of some lovely others) The Godly Hearts Column and that was all about relationships, singleness and everything else in between. I won’t repeat everything I’ve put in this article here, but the gist of what I want to say is that sometimes, the church and other Christians treat single people like they have something missing from their lives – that they’re different, that they’ve not quite “made it” or that the good days will come when Mr or Mrs Right arrives. This troubled me because I want to be a woman of God, and if my checklist is true, then what happens then? What if the old cliche of “oh, pray enough and God’ll give you a husband” or “wait it out, your time will come” never comes at all? What if it just doesn’t happen for me, or for you if you’re in my ‘situation’ of singleness?
So that’s another crossed off the list.
Getting up in the small hours – I definitely don’t do that (just ask my best friend, my housemates, my family, or anyone that knows me at all really…)
Dresses well? Hmm, debatable, not everyone likes a clash. I haven’t done much laughing at the future yet either #ThirdYearPanic
Loves God? Well yes, that is one I can definitely keep on my checklist.
See, the thing is, as much as I love the bible and I’m not about to contest any ancient texts or anything so don’t panic about that either, I can’t help but feel that this is a lacking description for a woman – if we focus on the wrong things.
If I focus on the husband element of this passage, I miss out on the laughter and the dignity. If I focus on the laughing, I might miss out on the small hours (although that’s not necessarily a bad thing, mind). If I focus on one key element, I miss out on so much. And I guess this is the same in church, and the same for Christians – regardless of a boyfriend, girlfriend, spouse or just a pizza. If we focus on that part of ourselves too much, we miss so much more of the bigger picture God has for us. Yes Annie, but you’ve said that before. Yes, I have said that before, but it’s definitely worth repeating.
I’m currently doing Bible In a Year (would defo recommend, #FreeAdvertising) and what I’ve noticed with Proverbs and Psalms is that the most important or the most beautiful bit of these passages is the end verses. And in this particular proverb, the ending definitely is the most beautiful: “charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised”. The most important thing about this woman is that she fears God. She loves God. It’s not about her children, her husband, her clothes or her giggle. It’s about God. So if I want to be a model woman, a woman of God and a woman after God’s heart, I just need to love him. Love him, obey him and serve him – just as this woman seems to do. She loves others because God loved her first, just as good old John reminds us later in the New Testament, and I’d quite happily suggest that the reason she is able to laugh without fear of the future, and be recognised as wearing strength and dignity, is because she has been changed by the love of God for good. She is his. His.
As for the husband and the early mornings, we’ll have to see about that. But what remains for all of us, regardless of our ‘situation’ or the time we open our eyes tomorrow, we are loved by God. Cherished, even – and that doesn’t change depending on the other stuff. The bad stuff that God can still see through his lens, as well as all of the good stuff that he just loves and wants to grow in us. I’m thankful that God is helping me to laugh without fear of the future. I am thankful that he is doing things in my life, this year – but I am also thankful in the times where I feel he isn’t, because it just makes me want God all the more (even when I’m grumbly and refuse to pray or sing or whatever. Even then Jesus matters, I promise). Am I perfect? Of course not. But I know the guy who is, and thankfully he loves this Kate Moss wannabe anyway.
Peace and blessings x