Women not employed by the beauty industrial complex will tell you that your thirties are better than your twenties, due to increased confidence and comfort in one’s own skin. It’s counter-intuitive, perhaps, for a culture as youth obsessed as ours, where magazines whisper that happiness is proportional to the gap between one’s thighs, but I suspect that part of contentment lies instead in the spaces one takes up without reservation or apology.
What good is a gap anyway? Negative space so easily becomes a canvas on which a faceless crowd projects its own constraining desires. They’re impossibly fickle and don’t take kindly to women who won’t abide contradictory rules and roles, but permission never was theirs to grant. I paint my own paths in bold, unmuted hue, attuned instead to passions closer to heart and home.
When I was young, I hunched my shoulders, envious of women delicate and fine. Now I know better: there are as many ways to be feminine as there are people, so I stand with shoulders back and head held high.
My voice carries. There’s no question? At the end of my sentences? I’m not sorry for showing up or speaking my mind (even–especially–if they’d rather I dial it back and fall in line). My presence and perspective will not shrink to fit.
I’ve learned there’s a difference between the crowd and my neighbor. To love the latter well, I cannot seek to please the crowd, and I’ve got to actually love and take care of myself. Self-consciousness and doubt turn a gaze inward every bit as much as pride, stalling the good work of justice, mercy, humility, and hospitality in our midst. I can’t embody my own gifts or fully be the person God created me to be if I’m stuck caring too much about what everyone else does or thinks.
There’s so much more room. Our experiences, strengths, fears, and perceptions vary. We’re not the same, and there’s no reason at all to squeeze ourselves or each other into tiny cookie cutter molds.
Let’s raise an Ebenezer from the molds we shatter together. A monument to faithfulness, freedom, and wings unclipped. To the diverse Body of Christ serving the Spirit and common good.
We can take up space as women beyond corner and margin. Your choices won’t invalidate mine, my victories can’t diminish yours, and your strengths don’t render me weak. Our stories are vast and unique, but our liberation and the health of our communities are bound up together.
We want to be well. We will listen and learn and love, and we’ll carve out still more room, creating space and new paths as we walk, never minding the gap.