Beauty is a rough topic among millennial women. Even my close friends struggle between the two extremes: eating too much, or eating too little. I have two friends with life-threatening eating disorders so I try very hard to not comment on anyone’s appearance. A “wow, you look good” could trigger something that I did not intend. So I keep my words to “ I am happy to see you today”. My relationship with food is not exactly healthy either. I even got to the point where I was drinking juice and coffee to have enough sugar to keep my blood sugar from dropping. Not good. Then there was the over-exercising phase I went through, which was very not good. In everything, there must be moderation.
This is the first time, I’ve ever written about this and I definitely have never said this out loud but I used to study magazines. Study implies more than a cursory glance. It involves some time and income devoted to the task. When I was in high school, I was always the outcast so I thought if I studied Cosmopolitan, Seventeen and Teen Vogue that I would be more of a regular teen. I’m not kidding. I went over each article like it was biblical passage, meditating on its words. It was one of the ways I learned strange things about love and about my own body, beliefs that I held onto for a long time. One of those ideas is:
YOU HAVE TO, HAVE TO BE SKINNY to be Pretty
I’m just going to go out on a limb and say… “THAT AINT BIBLICAL” Beauty standards have changed throughout history. Depending on the period of time, being pale and fat could be pretty. Now, don’t get me wrong in 2017, being tan and skinny is in. But if I am meditating on “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things and the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:8)… I don’t think I’m really as concerned about whether my body conforms to what you think is beautiful. I need to learn that certain things just don’t apply to me. Does an alcoholic sit around looking at beer ads and say to themselves I wish”? No. An alcoholic may go as far as changing the channel because they know that sidewalk café beer ad does not have anything to do with their experience and does not apply to them.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t be healthy. Paul also writes “
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind (Romans 12)” Let’s be honest. If you cannot breathe walking down the street, you cannot do your job of reflecting Christ. You cannot spread the gospel, if your life and health is in constant jeopardy. However, beauty is a subjective concept. It’s like the word “normal”. In the words of a friend “ normal is a setting on a washer dryer, it does not apply anywhere else”. So I declare: Beauty is when something God created strikes you. It is describing how you seasoned your words to encourage a friend.
“Take less action”, she said. I looked at her like she had three heads. I’m asking “what should I do about this situation?”. She answered ” Take less action”. I’m a doer. I will agonize, contemplate and try to figure things out. I will be up at 3am googling solutions. A friend went so far as to ask me if Google was my god.
As movers and shakers in the world, as a millennial, as a woman, as an intellectual, as a Haitian-American, I feel so much pressure to “do something”. I also move through the world as if I’m being assigned a letter grade for things. In my household, if you scored a 95, someone would ask you what happened to the other five percent. So I feel like I have to get a hundred in hygiene, appearance, prayer, bible study, laundry, etc. There is no rest for the perfectionist.
If you have to schedule self-care, then do it. There will always be something that calls for your attention: An alert on your phone, a phone call, or your mother asking you to drop everything and fix the tv for her. Rest is so important. We were designed to have daytime and nighttime. The light was for activity and the night was for rest. The invention of electricity and artificial light revolutionized our lives in such a way that we can still be working at 3am. However, our bodies were not designed for that. Lack of sleep can cause all sorts of medical problems including seizures.
Even if you cannot carve out a time for “doing nothing”, carve out a time for spiritual rest. Rest is a biblical principal. There’s the 7th day maxim in the Old Testament ( Exodus 20: 8-11)
8 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.9 Six days you shall labor, and do all your work,10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates.11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
I will say no more about this one because I don’t want to get into a theological debate about the sabbath. Instead I will call your attention to another set of verses in the New Testament ( Matthew 11:28-30)
28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
If you are familiar with the Bibles with red lettering, you will notice that these are red. The red highlights that the words came straight from the mouth of Jesus. Jesus wants us to rest. All work and no play is not biblical. If it makes you feel any better, you can find something Christianese to do that’s resting: like Wednesday night Dinner Party, or volunteering. I know I enjoy journaling, coloring, crocheting, photography, playing piano, drawing and singing. These are restful activities for me. I also don’t feel the need to sprinkle Jesus into them either. I don’t have to sing or play hymns all the time or color scripture verses or take pictures of nature to showcase the glory of God. If I did that, I would feel like my relationship with Jesus was stiff and forced, coming from the background I do. I’m free to rest. In Christ, there is freedom.
I’ve noticed that there is a ton of Christian blogs discussing millennials. It is hilarious to me because most of these article authors assume that there is some sort of mass exodus of millennial happening in the church. It’s a heated panicked discussion of “how do we reach millennials?” As someone who has recently returned to church ( 2 years and counting), I can explain my reasons for leaving the church, the community of God.
1.I didn’t feel it was relevant. From a social justice standpoint, I didn’t see churches uplifting blighted communities, teaching black men what their rights were, or comforting sexual assault victims. To me, the world had gone to hell and a hand basket and the bride of christ was sitting on the porch drinking tea.
2. Too many arguments. People wanted to discuss things like should women preach, should women wear pants, men being the head of marriage, what day is the sabbath and I felt like I had better things to do with my time.
3.There was too much emphasis on doctrine, not enough about the good news. We believe this and this and this… oh by the way Jesus died for your sins. At that point, I just went so everything I am and do is a sin and against the beliefs so why do I need Jesus. I wanted to go where it’s warm. Where I was welcomed and not rejected. That is not. to say that there are not hard truths that need to be said. But it’s all the approach.
When I returned to church, I was met with arms open wide. Nobody cared if my skirt was too short or if I had multiple tattoos, or what my journey had been like. I was constantly reassured that above everything I was loved and had received grace upon grace upon grace. Nobody tried to force me to be a certain way or dress a way. They told me that its not my job to change people… that’s all Jesus. Jesus does the heavy-lifting. He who began the work is faithful to complete it.
I don’t believe millennials are leaving the church in droves. We are forming our own communities of church. Where we can be accepted with face piercings and entire sleeves of tattoos. Where we can curse and still love Jesus.
If you’ve been around social media, you have seen this hashtag. It is to spread awareness of the prevalence of sexual assault and sexual harassment. As a woman of color, living in America, I always wondered if my experiences of sexual violence were unique to me. Yes, in some ways my experiences are unique and singular. However, bacteria thrives in darkness. So while keeping my secrets close to my heart, I was creating an environment for sickness to thrive. I ascribed so many things to myself as a result of these experiences and was living carrying the bags of my shame. But in Christ, there is freedom and light. I am what he says I am not what the museum of my past says I am.
First and Foremost I thought I was broken, just shattered and couldn’t be whole.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise. Psalm 51:17
The LORD is near to the brokenhearted And saves those who are crushed in spirit.Psalm 34:18
I thought that I was a bad person. That everything I touched turned to ash.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28
I was convinced I had no future.
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29: 11.
For people like me, who have had traumatic experiences change their identity. It is important to speak and declare God’s words over your life. For one, it makes me feel less depressed and like every day is a trial. For two, it really enhances my relationship with Jesus if I know who I am in Him. I cannot say that its been easy. I’ve had nightmares and flashbacks and have spent a significant amount of time ruminating on my failures. I am also convinced that my experiences have put me in a unique position to reach people who otherwise couldn’t be reached.
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. Romans 8:18.