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I'm Not Wonder Woman
But God Made Me Wonderful!
By Sheila Walsh
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2006 Sheila Walsh
All rights reserved.
I've got nothing to wear!
Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly. —Matthew 11:28–30 (The Message)
I am woman, hear me roar! —Ray Burton and Helen Reddy, 1972
America is a couples' culture. If you are over the age of twenty-one and not married or heading in that direction, friends and family will attempt to fix you up with Mr. Right. If you are widowed or divorced, it is assumed that Mr. Next is just around the corner.
I didn't grow up in a culture like this. In Scotland, it is perfectly acceptable to be single. If you are widowed or divorced, it is more common to remain single than to remarry. That may be changing now as television presents a different picture, but when I was in my teens and twenties, a single person was viewed as a whole person rather than one in waiting or overlooked.
In church, we didn't have special groups or Bible studies for single people; they just had to muddle through like all the rest of us sinners. Perhaps our church leaders assumed that, rather than their needs being peculiar to them, single people had the same needs, hopes, and desires as those who were married—they just had more space in their beds.
When I first visited the United States in my early twenties, I became aware of how hard it was to be single in this country. The whole dating scene is a huge subculture, and, quite frankly, it's not something I ever excelled at!
An Early Engagement
Although I never dated much, I do have a past. I was engaged at ten! Not many people can claim that on a résumé. I didn't see it coming, so I was as surprised then as I'm sure you are now. There was a boy in my class at school whom I liked a lot. His name was Jim. I sat behind him and was fascinated by the way his dark hair curled on the collar of his school blazer. I had an overwhelming urge on a daily basis to touch his curly locks, but I was a good Baptist, so I suppressed my desire.
As Valentine's Day approached that year, I wondered if I dared send a card expressing my admiration for his brown eyes and his silken locks. My allowance did not provide for the kind of card that I wanted to give him, so I decided to make one. I took an empty Cornflakes box and cut it open to reveal the blank cardboard inside. I glued the rooster sides together so that I now had a clean slate on which to express myself.
There is something so full of possibility about a blank piece of paper. Before I committed to the first stroke of the paintbrush or the first word, it was perfect, full of promise, but sadly for me it was all downhill from that point on. In my head, I saw great beauty, but it never made it out onto the paper. So I remained the only one who knew of my potential to become a master painter or recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature. All I can honestly say for that occasion is I did my best.
The following day was February the fourteenth, so I tucked the card inside my school bag. It was a cold, rainy day, as would be the norm between September and June of any given year on the west coast of Scotland. I crept into the classroom before the school bell rang and slipped the now-sodden card into Jim's desk. As my classmates began to file in, my heart was thumping in my chest. I panicked and considered removing the card before he saw it, but it was too late. I was sure he would laugh at me. I thought of all the extravagant, expensive cards that I had pored over in the drugstore. Some were so thickly padded they looked as if they had been made by a mattress company. My offering was pathetic. When the teacher asked us to open our desks and take out our workbooks, I almost fainted. Jim opened his desk, took out his book, and closed it again. How could he have missed my soggy card? Perhaps he saw it and was being kind enough to ignore it?
All day he said nothing. When the school bell rang at four o'clock, I headed home with a heavy heart. The following day, Jim approached me in the school yard before first bell and handed me a small package. I opened it, and inside was an engagement ring. It wasn't a toy or a cheap imitation; it was a gold band with three sapphires and two diamonds.
As you can imagine, I was shocked. I had no idea that one card could unlock such a floodgate. I asked him where he got it, and he informed me that he had found it on the beach one day and had been saving it for the right girl and the right moment. He was not a man of many words; he simply looked at me and said, "This is it!"
My mother didn't see it that way, and that evening I had to take the ring to the police station and turn it in as lost property. After six months, the ring was unclaimed and returned to me so that my engagement period could continue. We smiled at each other at least twice a day, he put my name on his soccer ball, and I wrote his name inside my school bag in permanent ink, and that was the extent of our engagement.
Scottish teenagers didn't date much when I was growing up, but I dated less than most. I was fairly shy and uncomfortable with the woman I saw in the mirror. I saw myself as chubby and awkward. I have always been a klutz and have fallen down more stairs than Scarlett O'Hara was ever carried up.
Our school uniform was a white blouse with a navy and gold tie, grey skirt, navy blazer, and white socks. Other girls had pretty, feminine legs, but mine were a mass of bruises, cuts, and scrapes. Money was tight in our family, as Mom was raising three children by herself, so whenever I had my hair cut, she wanted her money's worth. My bangs were cut so short it took about a month before I looked human again. I'm surprised that I didn't pass away from brain freeze as I waited for the school bus on cold Scottish mornings!
All in all, I was not an inspiring sight. I didn't have a dad to tell me that he thought I looked beautiful, and I heard other voices that told me a different story.
Not So Wonderful
When I was sixteen years old, I was given the female lead of Maria in our school play, West Side Story. Before opening night, the whole school was invited to see us at dress rehearsal. I was nervous but excited too. It went well for a while until I took the stage with a mirror and began to sing, "I feel pretty, oh so pretty ..."
Halfway through the first chorus, a boy stood up and screamed out, "Well, you sure don't look it!"
Laughter rippled through the high school auditorium. I was so embarrassed and hurt. I pressed on through the song, but my heart was breaking. I felt like such a fool. I made jokes about it afterwards with my friend, Moira, but that night I cried quietly into my pillow once my sister was asleep. It was one more voice confirming what I already knew: I was not one of the pretty ones.
The Standard Is Raised Even Higher
I fell in love once at college, but we parted before graduation. I decided to simply concentrate on serving God and live on the memories of a previous engagement, knowing that I could always say, sadly staring off into the distance, "I was engaged once ..." Occasionally, I would have dinner with someone, but it never came to much. There is one date, however, that stands alone, redefining how inadequate I felt as a woman.
You Dated Who?
I was working for Youth for Christ at the time and was singing that weekend at a local Christian music festival. Most of us raised our own support, so there was no money for fancy outfits or jewelry. At the end of my set, a man introduced himself to me. He told me that he was with the record company that I had just recorded my first project with and asked if I would like to have dinner with him some time. I politely declined, but our paths crossed again a few weeks later, and after we talked for a while, I thought it might be fun. He showed up in a very flashy car and took me to a beautiful restaurant. During dinner, he asked me if I dated much.
"Not really," I said. "I'm very busy with my music and work. What about you?"
"I date a lot," he said. "My last date was very beautiful, beautiful and very successful."
"Well, how nice for you," I said. "Will you be seeing her again?"
"She had to return to America to continue filming her TV show," he replied nonchalantly.
"Wow! A TV star, would I know her?" I asked.
"It's Wonder Woman," he confided with great delight. "I dated Wonder Woman."
I stared at him for a moment not sure whether to laugh, applaud, or offer to pay for dinner. "You dated Wonder Woman? You dated the Wonder Woman, the one with the cape and the boots and the headband!?" I asked in disbelief.
"That's the one!" he said, trying unsuccessfully to look modest.
That evening I found myself staring in my bathroom mirror for a long time, taking inventory. I was twenty-three years old. I have nice eyes and a good nose, I told myself. I could definitely stand to lose fifteen pounds. My hair is not so much styled as just ... clean and dry.
I looked over my meager wardrobe, but search as I did, there was not a cape in sight. I picked up a magazine that was lying on the floor beside my bed and flipped through the pages. The images I saw confirmed what I already knew: Wonder Woman I was not!
Ever Been There?
Have there been moments in your life when you suddenly saw yourself through someone else's eyes and the image was a disappointing one? Do you compare yourself to others and come up painfully short?
We live in a culture that is constantly redefining what physical beauty is, and even as Christian women, it is easy to fall into the trap of attempting to conform to that image.
In Every Woman in the Bible, Sue and Larry Richards write, "In the 1950s, beauty contest winners tended to be about 5'6" or 5'7" and weigh 140 to 150 pounds. Today's beauty contest winners are taller and generally 30 to 40 pounds lighter! Yet, today in the United States, women tend to be heavier than in the '50s and no taller!"
Just as the gap between reality and society's ideal of female beauty widens, so does the gap between reality and the other expectations society and even the church place on women. I believe that we have lost sight of the wonder of God's plan and vision for our lives.
It is my heart's cry to restore the marvelous picture of God's purpose for a woman's life. We should accept no less! It doesn't matter if you are fat or thin, tall or short, black or white, married or single—if we will exchange our view of our life for God's, it will transform the way we live.
But where do we start? Surely we need to go back to that first moment when a woman opened her eyes on planet Earth and felt pure joy coursing through her veins.
Before we try to imagine what that must have been like, let's take a moment and identify the places of humiliation and second-guessing in your life. You may find it helpful to write your responses in a journal. I have often been surprised by what I write when I am being very honest with myself. It can be therapeutic to put what we hide in our inner closet on paper.
A Look in the Mirror
Have you ever had a Maria moment? What was it?
How did that make you feel?
Do you compare yourself to other woman?
How do you honestly believe God sees you?
A Closet Prayer
This is a suggested prayer. Feel free to pray along with me or use your own words to express your heart to God.
I confess that I don't always like what I see in my mirror. I compare myself to other women, and I don't feel as if I am enough. Help me to see that in You, I am more than enough.
I don't like what I see in the mirror
The Lord God made clothes from animal skins for the man and his wife and dressed them. —Genesis 3:21 (NCV)
Mirror, mirror on the wall, Who is the fairest of them all? —The Grimm Brothers, Snow White
She moved an arm, just a little. Feeling the ground beside her, she let dust run through her long, perfect fingers. As she moved, she heard a sound, a voice; she was not alone. The voice was beautiful. It made her laugh and cry at the same time. Slowly, Eve opened her eyes. It was bright, so bright that she closed them again for a moment. The voice spoke again. When she opened her eyes for a second time, she saw a hand stretched out to her. She reached toward the hand and was lifted off the ground until she stood erect in the sunshine.
Her hair tumbled down her back like cords of silk. They walked for just a little while, hand in hand. She couldn't see the face as it was so bright, but pure joy filled her heart and soul. When they stopped, she found herself looking into the eyes of a stranger. The bright one took her hand and placed it in the hand of the figure in front of her. He stared at her as tears began to run down his face. He took both of her hands in his and held them to his face as she began to sing. It was love, pure unadulterated love.
And the man said,
"Now, this is someone whose bones came from my bones,
whose body came from my body.
I will call her 'woman,'
because she was taken out of man." —Genesis 2:23 (NCV)
I can only imagine how beautiful Eve must have been. She was God's perfect creation, made in His image. In the original Hebrew text, the two words image (selem) and likeness (demut) are linked together by a hyphen: image-likeness. What a statement!
Stop and think about that for a moment. God gave us the amazing gift of being made in his image-likeness. Through the years, artists and poets have tried to capture a picture of what Eve must have looked like. The blind poet John Milton wrote, "So absolute she seems and in herself complete." What a thought—complete. So in union with God and with her husband that she lacked nothing, absolutely nothing. Again Milton wrote, "O fairest of creation, last and best."
George Herbert, the sixteenth-century Welsh poet, wrote of Eve, "The man was dust refined but the woman dust double-refined." God made Adam from the dust of the ground, but after He had breathed life into Adam's nostrils and set him ablaze with joy and spirit, God made Eve. Just as we are born-again, as we rest under the blood that flowed from the wounded side of Christ, so Eve was born from the wound in Adam's side.
There would be no pain for Adam because there was as yet no sin in the world. God caused him to fall asleep, and as he slept, God worked. (My son and I joke that Barry is the next Adam because he's always sleeping as God works!)
Apart from her beauty, there were many things that marked Eve out as unique. She was never a baby or a teenager. She was never a daughter or a sister. She was never embarrassed, afraid, critical, insecure, misunderstood, or ashamed until that tragic moment when she chose to listen to a voice other than the voice of God. Listening to that voice and being seduced by its promise changed everything; it even changed her name.
There are three names given to Adam's wife. First, God called them both Adam. "Male and female created he them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created" (Gen. 5:2 KJV).
God's design for men and women was not that we simply would have an association with each other or spar over the kitchen counter but that there would be an indissoluble unity between us—a communion that reflected the Godhead. How far we have fallen from that perfect place where there was only breath between us, no words to divide or punish, just love.
Adam originally called his wife "woman" because she was literally taken out of him, formed from one of his own ribs. But after they had eaten from the only tree that God told them never to touch, Adam called her Eve. His renaming of his wife was very significant. Eve means "mother of all living" or "life-giving." In Old Testament times, a name was tremendously important. It told your story, prophetically declared who you were going to be, your character, your gifts, your future. Why then did Adam choose Eve, a name whose meaning was so positive? After all, didn't she offer him a piece of fruit from the forbidden tree and cost him everything?
Excerpted from I'm Not Wonder Woman by Sheila Walsh. Copyright © 2006 Sheila Walsh. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
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