The girl looking back from my tiny childhood mirror was a scraggly, skinny too-tall person with big lips and sad eyes. Her heart shown through those eyes expressing a lack of worth, a feeling of being less than other people, like she was taking up space where she did not belong. She could see the unkempt mess she was, the stains and blotches that showed on her worn t-shirts or 501 jeans, but the blemishes that reflected back (even all these years later) were hidden in her soul- stains of dirtiness that she could not wash away, not with gallons of soap and water. She felt grimy from the inside out.
When she was 14 years old, she stood before a county clerk and married the gentle boy who came into her life to rescue her from a destructive situation. Though she was just a child with no idea how to be a wife, she embraced the hope that this was a new start for her and that she could create a better life for herself.
At 16, she became pregnant and a strange thing happened. She sensed that she was a vessel carrying precious cargo. She felt that this person growing inside her was pure, yet untouched or soiled by the world. For the first time in her life, she felt clean because the little one within her was clean. She cherished this unique feeling. For some time after her son was born, she attempted to hold on to this clean feeling by creating a home that reflected a new life. She cooked and scrubbed and read baby books. She had no idea how to be a mother, but was determined to do her best by this child that had been given to her. Her wonderful mother-in-law taught her how to bathe her newborn and take care of his other physical needs and she tackled this new role with the gusto of a girl grown up too fast. It was a happy time-a time of fresh beginnings.
At 17, because money was tight, she went to work as a waitress. She enjoyed working with people and helping out. However, she did not expect the sort of reverse metamorphosis that happened slowly at first and then became all-consuming like an insidious fireball . It started with a nod, a glance, a smile, a look, an interest, a compliment, an acknowledgment that the way she looked was attractive somehow. This was different and intoxicating to that girl in the mirror. For months she had seen nothing but satisfying blotches of baby spit looking back at her or a tired young wife whose husband had grown used to her.
She started coming home with a curiosity to figure out what was causing this phenomena. Yes, her looks and body had matured and filled out by becoming a mother. Because she was working, she took more care with her appearance, but she had never been a head-turner, plain really, not noticeable, except for her height. This interest in her physical appearance slowly started to feel like a drug to her. At first, she would come home and wash off her makeup with a thrill, recounting the nice things that men had said to her as she poured their coffee and served their food. Then she began to count the number of times in a day men had shown an attraction to her. It was a good or bad day according to that number. She became obsessed. She became addicted. She woke every morning trying to look her best. Nothing wrong with that except all of her effort was aimed at satisfying an attention fix. Other things changed too. She started smoking and dressing more provocatively. She did not want to cheat on her husband. She just craved to be noticed, praised, complimented. Her inexperience did not allow her to see this shallow trap for what it was. All she knew was when her praise numbers were high, she felt beautiful. Like any other addiction, it was thrilling when it was being fed, but the satisfaction was fleeting. It wanted to be fed again, compelling her to seek it out stronger the next time. Then the need for attention grew into discontentment with the better life she had tried to create.
She began to resent all that she had missed out on by marrying at such an early age (sound like the Israelites wandering in the wilderness?). She never went a day to high school, no proms, no dates, not other boyfriends, no freedom. It was the freedom to do what she wanted that whispered to her the strongest when she stood before the mirror. Freedom to do whatever she wanted without guilt or worry or shame.
At 19, she walked away. She not only left the man who had rescued her from damaging circumstances, but also from the better, cleaner life she had hoped to create for her small family.
She spent a few years trying to recapture a childhood she had never had, a freedom that does not exist, a satisfaction for her need to be noticed, appreciated, longed for, wanted. She embraced her new wild friends and partying lifestyle. The image in the mirror became hardened with the need for attention while she neglected the emotional needs of the son she had promised to protect. And the shame stains came back and grew. The image in the mirror darkened. Those times when the girl in the mirror felt a glimpse of washed were gone.
Even though this lifestyle would only last a few years, it would take decades and Jesus before I began to heal from this destructive need to find my self worth in the way I look, how much I weigh, what attention I do or do not receive from the opposite sex. This need for attention would point to a much larger problem that turned me into a seeping vase, full of holes, that I was constantly trying to fill. This story I am determined to tell gets worse before it gets better. It is a roller coaster of big mistakes and God-given accomplishments- forgiveness and filling, and the lovely treasure of meeting Jesus- the purifier of my soul.
Please check out the mini-companion study concerning attraction addiction. It is an insidious deceiver and the spirit cleansing help available. Thank you to the followers of this blog. I appreciate knowing you are there. Every so often, I will post a more up-to-date post that, I hope, lightens my story a bit. Next week- Magic! Again, thank you to all of you for joining me this week.