This post is dedicated to every woman who has suffered from abuse; abuse that was experienced in any form. Your story is a painful one, and the pain may never go away completely. In the midst of your pain, I would pray that today you would know this: You are beautiful.
Did the man I was once married to make me feel beautiful? Yes. Yes, he did. However, he also made me feel disgusting and inferior. He emotionally slaughtered me. For a long time, I couldn’t feel much of anything except for the fact that I knew I was still living. My soul had been so violated and my emotions so manipulated that I couldn’t quite seem to identify them within myself. In the midst of working through the violation, I wasn’t sure if I would know what it felt like to be beautiful, truly beautiful, ever again.
Several years ago, I was flying home from Cancun, days after what would have been my 2nd year anniversary. I was struggling intensely with a dark depression again. The emotional, spiritual, and physical violations against me had been re-opened, like a sore that is in the process of healing and then is picked at; the scab removed before its time. An infection was setting in. My heart felt diseased, my whole being felt diseased, and I desperately wanted to escape from it. So there I was, in sheer despair on the airplane, and it was as if God had heard the prayer I hadn’t yet uttered. A prayer for strength and understanding…the Holy Spirit answered me before I had the courage to cry out to Him. I had an impulse to get out my notebook and begin writing. As I wrote, God’s love flowed through my pen, and sent me the message that my heart needed to hear…I call this bit of writing, “The Room”.
“Please. Please make it stop! You’re supposed to love me, remember? You’re supposed to protect me! You made a promise…don’t you remember?” Before I can speak another word, my perpetrator takes one last deep look into my eyes and finishes the final blows of a beating that will scar me for the rest of my life. Darkness covers me.
Hours later, I am awoken by a figure standing over me, and his hand is held out to me. “I’m sorry,” I say, “I’m sorry, I’m too weak. I can’t get up.”
“Okay…then I’ll carry you,” the figure replies, and he gently picks me up and carries me out of the darkness. I cry with each step that the figure takes. My body, my heart, my soul are so mangled that it feels as if I am no longer whole.
“Please, please put me down,” I cry out. “I don’t want you to carry me anymore, it hurts too much! I can’t stand it!”
“No, I will not put you down. I came to rescue you, not to abandon you. I know it hurts, but you must trust me. You must trust…” The figure speaks with strength as he whispers those words to me over and over.
Finally, the figure sets me down. We have arrived in an empty room. Empty, all except for a very large mirror that hangs on the wall. The room is bright, so bright that the light hurts my swollen eyes. “I am going to give you some time alone in this room. You only have to open this door if you become too scared,” and with that the figure walks toward the door.
“Wait!” I call out, “What am I supposed to do in here?” Softly the figure puts his hand on my face and says, “I brought you here to look at yourself, to reflect on what has happened to you, and once you have done this, you will understand the importance of this room.” Then, he turned around and quietly shut the door behind him.
In the silence, I make my way over to the mirror, and once in front of it I raise my eyes. “Oh…oh, oh…no! No, no, no! Where am I? This isn’t me! This cannot be me. This couldn’t have happened…to me… Oh God, oh God, no. Please…no!” I can barely look at the reflection in the mirror. The reflection has had the clothes torn from her. Her body is disfigured and discolored. Welts cover her face, and her arms are badly bruised. “This, this reflection is not me! I am not this woman!” I fall to the floor, and as I crumble the reflection in the mirror does too.
I stay in the room for quite some time, how long exactly I’m not sure. All I know is that I stay in the room long enough to memorize every welt, every bruise, every scar…every place where there is pain. I stay in the room long enough to be able to sit and stare at my reflection and accept it as just that…my reflection.
While I was studying my face one particular day, the figure slowly entered the room. For a moment, the figure simply looked at me. He looked directly into my eyes and said, “You’re beautiful, you know that don’t you?” Tears slid down my cheeks. “I was beautiful,” I manage to utter, choking back the sobs.
“No, you are beautiful right now, in this moment, with all the light shining on every one of your scars. You are beautiful.”
Though I had grown to accept the woman I saw in the mirror, I couldn’t help but ask, “Can you make all of these wounds go away? Can you make me who I was before all of this happened to me?”
“No, no that is something I will not do for you. I can’t change what happened, but I can be with you through each painful moment. I brought you to this room to ask you to embrace an incredible understanding of suffering. You cannot be who you were before, but I want you to know that this suffering will be of more value to you than you may ever be able to understand.”
I nodded slowly, not fully comprehending, but remembering the words he had spoken to me when he carried me away from the darkness… “You must trust me…you must trust me…”
Years have passed since that plane ride, since God answered my heart’s cry through that pen and paper, and I’ve had to go back and re-read “The Room” on several occasions. It has been an unyielding reminder of truth to me in some very dark moments.
Yes, I did experience something horrible and shocking and devastating. Yet, God has shown me that I am beautiful because of my story, not in spite of it. I’m not sure that I truly knew what beauty was until I knew suffering.
When I look at myself today, I can still see the agony. Once in awhile I still feel despair. Sometimes I still cry. I cry because I can see the scars even if others do not. I still see the young woman on the floor crying out for the pain to stop. I still see the glazed over eyes of a medicated broken heart. The beautiful thing is that I still see God. There is beauty in the breakdown.