Sunday, July 10, 2005

The Pressured Hearts of Women

I often find myself thinking that other women have it more together than I do. Especially sharp women. Beautiful women. Women whose hair shimmers with golden highlights, and whose shoes have no scuffs. Their makeup is flawless; their nails, glossy like fine porcelain, remain unnervingly un-chipped. These women carry nice handbags, and their children (if they have them) wear smocked things and shiny shoes and know how to play without getting dirty or being loud. They intimidate me, and I find myself terrified at the thought of trying to befriend them.

Don't get me wrong-- I'm not exactly shabby. I clean up nicely anyway, and can look just as nice, just as put-together, and can convince my children to bathe and groom and wear shoes that match. It's not much, I know, but it's a start. But I've always felt as if I wasn't quite as good as those women. I've never had super-strong self-esteem. My business requires me to network with those women, and I tend to build it up in my head that they are unapproachable. Their lives seem too perfect for me to think I could have anything to offer them, and their apparent success (in business, parenting, or beauty) makes me wonder if they would accept me as a person.

We attend a church in which altar calls, hands-on prayer, and faith healing is the norm. It is not unusual for the pastor to call for those desiring healing-- sometimes even naming specific ailments-- to come forward for the church's prayers. Often, the call is offered two or three times before the first person takes that step, slowly moving forward toward the front of the church. From there, a few people might come forward, and miracles start to happen.

Recently, in church, the pastor gave an altar call for anyone dealing with the pain of depression and anxiety. Expecting the usual trickle of believers, I was overwhelmed to see the flood of people who poured down the aisles and toward the front of the church. In the crowd were a few men-- tall, short, different colors and backgrounds-- but the majority who came forward were women. Gorgeous, beautiful, put-together, bright, and precious women stood shoulder to shoulder, 3 rows deep, across the front of the church. Flawless women I had seen before but been too intimidated to approach held hands with recent immigrants who prayed in broken English for God's hand upon their lives. Foster mothers and teenage daughters and women whose children had left this life far too soon-- all gathered in the sisterhood of pressured hearts and sunken spirits.

Why do we do this to ourselves? What is it about women in our society that we willingly offer ourselves up to the artificial and hurtful standards of our society? Isn't it enough that we regret we will never live up to the just and objective measures of integrity, compassion, and love? Must we also measure ourselves against arbitrary measures of beauty, social standing, and "thinness"? I live for the day that my daughter will grow up, look herself in the mirror, and be pleased, just as God is pleased in her. My beloved child, in whom I am well pleased, how could you ever let your heart be troubled when all of life is at your fingertips, waiting for you to claim your God-ordained blessings?

There is so much more to life than worrying and sorrow. There is so much that we are called to do through our unique spiritual gifts. God does not choose us by our outer beauty, social status, or material success. Neither, apparently, does depression. But we can choose who and what we accept as our guide, our truth, our north star. I choose God.