I want to dispel a lie for you today.
And the lie is that it’s wrong for women to desire affirmation from men. The lie is that because your worth is found in Christ, you shouldn’t be seeking any other person to offer love and affection and truth.
The truth is this: it’s not only okay for women to desire affirmation from men; it’s good to. And when your worth is found in Christ, love and affection and truth from another is all the more valuable.
Women deeply desire beauty. We crave beauty around us, beauty to flow through us, and exterior beauty, too. And satan, knowing full well just how desperate our longing for that beauty is, uses that to his advantage.
The enemy makes us think that we’re NOT beautiful. There is no beauty around us. Or if there is, it’s so far removed from us that we are ugly in comparison. He lets us believe there is no beauty flowing through us nor can beauty ever flow through us. We don’t know how to offer loveliness to others. And we face insecurity day after day, expressed in accusations towards our body. Why do I not fit this? Why does this look good on her and not me? Why do the men in my life look past me?
And here’s what has happened over time: society has decided to wage war on this insecurity and longing with phrases about how “you don’t need a man” and women can feel beautiful and incredible all on their own as an independent woman. And Christians have decided to wage war on this insecurity and longing with phrases about how “your worth is found in Christ alone” and women will only end up feeling empty if they look to men to fulfill them instead of God.
But in this is a whole new insecurity, the insecurity of having insecurity. On top of that insecurity is shame and guilt that women are feeling from desiring attention, affection, and affirmation from people when the Church is screaming that we should only be asking for things from Jesus.
The world says it’s wrong to ask men to help you see your beauty, to rely on their input and wish for them to call out your loveliness.
I believed that lie for a long time.
But now I see that it is necessary for the men in our lives, specifically any godly man you are striving to build a future with, to help us see our beauty. It’s good for us to desire their input and wish for them to call out our loveliness.
Because in this, we give them the opportunity to receive what THEY most long for, which is the affirmation that they are capable.
Men want to know if they have what it takes to woo a girl, to win her heart and make her happy. And if us women take on the “I’m an independent woman who doesn’t need a man” mentality, we are depriving them of the opportunity to romance, pursue, and love us.
A woman feels most loved when she is receiving affection and affirmation of her beauty. A man feels most loved when he is receiving respect and admiration for his strength. We have to let the men in our lives offer their strength. And not letting them be there for us in our weakest moments, the moments where we wonder if we’ll ever fit in those jeans or be model gorgeous or have a charming personality, does nothing to build or uplift them. It only takes away.
Let me be perfectly clear on this, though: the only way this works is if you DO know your worth is found in Christ.
If you don’t know this, a man’s affirmation and adoration will mean diddly-squat. Their words will feel hollow and end up being wasted breath. If we don’t have that foundational knowledge in our heart of whose we truly belong to and how beautiful we are as redeemed daughters of God, we will take advantage of that man. We will expect them to fill the God-sized holes in our hearts, which is another thing that does nothing to build or uplift. It only destroys.
And if we don’t believe that our worth is found in Christ, then the affirmation the men in our lives give us will not be believed, anyway. We’ll end up arguing with them. “You don’t really think I’m beautiful, though.” “Are you sure I’m pretty?” “You can stop pretending I’m so great.” And THIS is damaging, my lovelies. It hurts a man to not trust him or believe him. It hurts a man when you don’t take him for his word. It hurts a man when you’re hurting so much you can’t possibly receive a single compliment or word of affirmation that comes out of his mouth.
So yes, our worth must be found in Christ. And if our worth is found in Christ, love and affection and truth from another becomes valuable. It becomes an opportunity for both parties to bloom in their design, a woman as a beautiful lover and a man as a strong provider.
This is something I’ve been learning and still am having to wrap my mind and heart around.
I have a wonderful man in my life who adores me and takes care of me and reminds me of my value in both his sight and God’s. But the temptation to take it too far, to demand for more and more compliments and approval, is constantly at my back.
It takes romance with God to remember how romance with people should work, too. There is little strenuous demand between God and I because He speaks my worth over me and I have learned how to gladly receive it (some days less gladly than others). Because of this, there should be no strenuous demand between Grant and I either. God has already spoken worth over the BOTH of us and we should already have gladly received it.
What we ought to do for each other now is just echo the divine truth that’s already been said.
I echo the love God has for him and he echoes the love God has for me.
That’s the kind of romance I’ve longed for, and I’m beginning to see it’s not just a possibility; it’s a beautiful obligation that God can make a reality.
Side note: Grant and I went to the beach this week and came back with a little sunburn and some good memories. Vacations, even of the one-day kind, are (as Grant puts it) “good for the soul.” Yes, my soul was refreshed, and I’d say our relationship was a tad refreshed from it, as well.
Please, God, don’t let me forget how to laugh and have fun with the man I love as summer comes to an end and the real work begins.
I’m wrestling with what it means to be authentic.
Because more often than not, I’m giving off a false impression of myself.
I’m not that calm, collected girl who walks into class with her coffee and combat boots, no care in the world. I’m not that wise, oh-so-godly girl who sits in Bible studies and leads worship because Jesus is all she thinks about and lives for 24/7. I’m not that confident, positive girl who just likes to laugh at jokes, meet with friends at coffee shops, and wear yoga pants (because they’re by far the comfiest things in the world).
I might try to look like that girl. And I might even succeed. But she’s not me.
Truthfully, I’m still figuring out what kind of girl I am. I’m still discovering my interests, likes and dislikes, and personality. I’m learning that I’m a lot like my mother, which brings into question how much of me is really me. I also know that I often mold into my friends, putting on a different mask to be around different people. And I know better than anyone that I’m a messy, complex person who is one way today and then a totally different way tomorrow.
Can the real Jessie Nyland please stand up?
In all of my wrestling, I’ve been learning a lot about myself, the world we live in, and God.
And here’s one of the most important things about being authentic that I’ve seen and am now believing: it begins with telling the truth.
You’re not going to destroy all those false images that have been built up around you overnight. You can’t dismantle all those lies just by saying to yourself, “okay, be YOU now.”
Odds are that if you have been pretending long enough, you’ve started to believe that girl is really who you are.
So authenticity has to start somewhere, and I believe it starts with telling just one truth. One scary but necessary truth.
And after that truth gets out there, you tell another one. And another one. Until eventually, when people see you, they don’t just see the girl with the nose ring, combat boots, and cool blog. The one who keeps to herself and seems to have her life together.
They see the truth.
They see the girl who’s insecure, weird, moody, and confused. They see the girl who’s struggled with perfectionism all her life, but is learning how to keep that under control in her relationships and everyday life. They see the girl who loves God, but has nowhere near all the answers to living a faithful, godly life. They see the girl who has no idea what she’s doing.
The art of being authentic is telling the truth so people can stop seeing one thing and start to see another.
And in seeing you in this new light, you are somehow given permission to keep being yourself. After all, once the truth is out there, you can’t really take it back. Might as well keep unraveling.
I think this is why I write the way I do, why I’m becoming more and more honest about who I am. I’m tired of the lies I think people might believe about me, the lies that say I’m fine and I love my life and my faith is on point and I don’t need help.
(and I’m also a little tired of the lies I believe about many of YOU. There’s nothing more crippling than the insecurity that comes from seeing someone in this perfect, Instagram-filtered life and knowing I could never be that)
Authenticity needs to be more common. I’m pretty sure I need it if I’m going to stay sane.
I made an Instagram like four days ago and I’m already considering deleting it because I’m OBSESSING over what filters to use, to hashtag or not to hashtag, and why-oh-why is this girl so drop-dead gorgeous and perfect while I’m…. not?
You see, this is hurting me. The lack of authenticity and vulnerability I see all around me is hurting me.
It’s why I took so long to tell anyone about my loneliness or sadness. It’s why I don’t ask people out for coffee or invite anyone to come over to my house. It’s why I feel awful after watching a movie with beautiful, stick-thin actresses. It’s why I feel like a failure in every aspect of my life.
I believe that everyone else in the world is pretty and perfect while I’m pitiful and pathetic.
And that’s not healthy or even true.
We’re ALL really good liars.
And I’m so tired of being one.
If we’re going to have healthy relationships with others and with ourselves, we have to start telling the truth. Yes, the scary but necessary truth.
And if we’re going to have a healthy relationship with God, we have to start believing the truth about who HE says we are, too.
This is my new philosophy and it’s taken me many years to get here.
Here’s my truth for today: I’m far from feeling secure in who I am. But I so badly want to be. And I’m clawing at these lies as fast as I can, hoping to reach the point where I can look into the mirror and say, “this IS you.”
I don’t think I want to be that perfect, happy girl in my profile picture anymore. I want to be a real girl. An honest one. And even though I know you might be holding onto your own false images, I hope you can feel just a bit more comfortable being yourself after seeing the real, honest me. I want to invite you into realness, too.
Can we please, for (literally) the love of God, start telling the truth? You and I both, hand in hand. Just pushing those truths out there into the blinding public eye so the lies can leave us in peace to be our true, beautiful selves.
All it takes is just telling the truth. One scary but necessary truth at a time.
God speaks to me.
I get really nervous when I claim that around people, particularly those who are not as… umm… pentecostal?… but He does. Through the Holy Spirit, He communicates to me. And no, it’s not an audible voice. It’s just a voice that I know and recognize in my head.
And it sounds a lot like myself. Which also makes me nervous. Why would I think a voice in my head that sounds like MY voice could possibly be God speaking to me?
That’s where faith comes in, I suppose.
Now don’t get me wrong: I’ve had times where I thought I was hearing from Him and I clearly wasn’t. I was trying to predict things and declare things in my life that I had no business predicting. Lo and behold, those things didn’t come to pass. I sometimes accused Him during those times, as if He led me astray. But then I realized it was just me mishearing, me wanting answers so badly that I tried to answer them myself. And that was even more discouraging. If I can confuse my voice for His voice at times, then could it be that I’m confusing my voice for His voice ALL the time?
But I know I’m not. There have been times when He’s spoken so clearly to my heart. That voice in my head guides me into His love. Sometimes it guides me to love others and speak into people’s lives on things I would never think to speak of out of my own power and knowledge. I am given insight, prophetic words if you will.
I know not everyone believes in this kind of stuff, but it’s all real to me.
Let me tell you something, though. About a year after I began actively hearing God, I stopped listening. Something happened where I just didn’t know if I could trust that voice anymore. I was “hearing” things about my future and my family that ended up not being right, and that just threw me for a loop. Things had never been so wrong. I had never felt so wrong. Guess this was all just a lie, I told myself. And that time of freeing, reciprocated communication came to an end.
But a couple months ago, I began listening again. I stopped trying to put Him on mute. What a beautiful time of whispers and assurances and loving guidance this has been.
But the thoughts still linger: What if it’s not real? What if this is just me? What if I’m just really good at talking to myself?
I’m afraid of both losing my faith and finding my faith. I don’t want to put up a wall between God and I, but I also don’t want to be naive.
I’m at the point now where I’ve decided that whether I’m right or wrong or a little in-between, I like this relationship thing I have going on with Him. It’s a give-and-receive, hear-and-listen kind of relationship that’s changed my view of God and myself.
The doubt remains, but right now I’m taking baby steps, sitting before God in the mornings and letting Him speak words to me while I’m trying my hardest to soak them in.
I think He understands how hard this is. Surely He’s not blind to the obvious— He’s up there and we’re down here, and there’s A LOT of room for misinterpretation and questioning.
When I was praying about these doubts of mine a couple days ago, I was led to these verses in Psalm 139:
How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand– when I awake, I am still with you (v. 17-18).
If King David was given a glimpse into the thoughts of God, then perhaps God really is revealing some of His thoughts to me, too. After all, I have the Holy Spirit. And I don’t think God has changed His mind on wanting to communicate with His children.
And you want to know what I think? David probably wrestled with some of the same things. I mean, the guy was a king and then he committed this sin and ended up being hated and then was chased out of his kingdom. There’s no way he was just a happy-go-lucky camper who believed a hundred percent of the time that God was always there and speaking to him. And I know this because all throughout his Psalms, we see things like:
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish? My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer; by night, but I find no rest (Psalm 22:1-2).
He asks the same questions a lot of us do. He dealt with doubt just as we do. And I believe that asking those questions and dealing with doubt is okay.
If God is trying to communicate with me and I’m slow to listen or believe, I don’t think He’s going to sit up there in heaven, shaking his head in frustration.
No, I believe He would pursue further. As Jesus took Thomas’ hand and showed him his wounds, I believe He’ll show me what I need to see, as well. He doesn’t want to leave us in our small-mindedness or doubt.
Look, Jessie. I know you don’t want to believe these words. I know you don’t think it could be true that I would want to speak to you and spend time with you just as eagerly as you do with me. But I do. Look at these wounds in my side. Look at my scarred hand. Look what I did so we wouldn’t have to be apart! And this Holy Spirit that’s inside of you now isn’t some fictional mass in your body. It’s me. I want to be your friend, your counselor, your guide. You don’t have to find your way in the dark by yourself. You don’t have to silence the enemy’s lies on your own. I’m here. Look at me. Hear me calling you now.
I’m being careful, only allowing myself to believe so much and take in what I know to be absolutely true. My faith is growing again, though. And I’m again finding some of the joy and peace that I felt like I was missing during that year of silence.
God doesn’t deserve to be muted. Even my own voice doesn’t deserve to be muted. I was given this voice from the Creator, was I not? I need to listen to both, discerning what is true and good and holy.
And I definitely need to kick that stupid satan’s voice out, too. Which is a work in progress.
I’m forever going to hear voices in my head and I want to pursue the truth that those voices are communicating to me while dismantling the lies that try to come between God and I.
I’m still scared of being wrong, but if I’m right— well, what a beautiful thing.
I decided to commit my life to following Christ five years ago.
To set the scene that led up to that decision, I was confused, depressed, and angry and couldn’t FOR THE LIFE OF ME figure out why. This is just the way I am, I would sometimes tell people when asked about my troubled state of mind. Most of the time, I shut everyone out so I could deal with my hurt on my own. Or NOT deal with it, I guess you could say.
I was fourteen years old and had been self-harming for several years. Maybe it was due to family problems, a result of perfectionism, or just experimentation… whatever it was, it was destructive. A good friend of mine reached a point where she couldn’t watch me do this to myself any longer. The night I resolved to quit self-harming and pursue a relationship with God was the night she communicated to me that it was getting too hard to be my friend (I really do thank her for that, and we are still friends to this day). The question she asked that I will forever carry with me was, Why can’t you just choose to be happy?
I didn’t have an answer. And at that point I knew that if I was ever going to be happy or escape this numb zombie-like state of being, there would have to be a higher power intervening in my life. I just couldn’t fix myself.
So I turned to God (and Jesus, because I am a Christian and believe that Jesus is the only way to be rescued). And I’ve been loving and following Him ever since.
But the depression that had led me to Him has been trying to tear me away ever since.
I wish I could tell you that I’m not at all like my fourteen-year-old self. I wish I could testify that God has healed me of all my depression and anxiety and desire to harm myself.
But He hasn’t. Not yet, at least.
It’s been five years and I still am an emotional mess. I still have frequent thoughts of self-harm. I still am hurting people by my withdrawal and unexplained sadness. I still am wondering how I’m going to make it through the day and if I should just curl up in a ball and pray for something to come along to kill me.
And I still don’t have answers. I can’t explain where all of this is coming from. I can’t pinpoint some horrid childhood experience that has made me this way. I’m still just as confused and lost.
Truthfully, I get angry at God for letting me be this way.
If you’re so powerful and can do anything, why won’t you heal me? Do you even WANT me healed? Or am I just a pawn in this world that’s supposed to deal with whatever comes to make sure you get the glory? Are you supposed to be glorified in this? Because if so, then I don’t want to glorify you. I don’t want to serve you. If you won’t free me from this, then why do I even bother?
I love God. I love Him so much.
But that doesn’t mean it’s not hard sometimes. It’s hard to follow Him. Cookie-cutter Christianity might tell you that it’s not hard to follow Jesus if you’re truly desiring to worship Him and surrender to Him. To that, I reply with, “Well, call me selfish, then… because this is the hardest thing in the world.” But don’t think it’s not also the most fulfilling. It is.
I just want you to know the truth. I’m not some phenomenal writer and amazing person who goes and selflessly spends her summer with refugees because she’s such a great follower of Jesus. I’m not the optimist I used to be labeled as in high school. I’m not even the realist/almost-cynic I get labeled as now in college.
I’m just a girl who’s fighting to know what it means to love God while not knowing how to love herself.
I’m not doing the best job at fighting, but I’m working on it and I think that’s worth something.
Of course there are days (many of them, actually) where I tear myself down for still struggling with this depression and these awful thoughts.
If I believe in God so much, why am I not praying more against this? If I believe in the power of the Holy Spirit, why am I not standing in faith and rebuking these lies and attacks? If I am hurting so much, why am I not seeking counseling or medication? If I’m so depressed, then why do I still find ways to smile and have friends and do fun things?
But there’s a little part of me that also pats myself on the back. Good job, Jessie! You hate your life but you still carve out time each morning to talk to Jesus. You want to self-harm, but you haven’t in FIVE YEARS. You feel so much and sometimes it makes you numb, but at least you don’t make yourself not feel anything. You still let yourself love and be loved– not perfectly, but you’re making progress.
There’s much victory to be celebrated in my story. I don’t feel victorious all the time, but I know that God has done some really amazing things in my life. He’s gotten the glory, whether I wanted Him to or not. He’s doing the healing, and I’m letting Him.
I’ve been afraid of losing credibility or being rejected for having these thoughts and struggles, but in all actuality, they make me so RELEVANT. I’m not fixed, and that’s okay. No one is. I’m just one step closer to being free. Five years closer, to be more exact.
By not admitting to these things and not letting you see the real me, I’m just putting shackles around my wrists again. The shackles that God did away with when He put His Son on a cross.
Christianity didn’t fix me; Christ just frees me.
Frees me from having to pretend my life is together. Frees me from the shame that has kept me silent for far too long.
I want to be brave in this very moment and show people they can be brave, too.
So here I am, sticking out my trembling hand to whoever you are, hoping you’ll take it.
The saddest thing I’ve realized is that for a majority of girls (myself included), being a woman is characterized by shame.
We are ashamed of being women.
And that’s not something you would normally say so blatantly and directly. Some of you might not even agree that’s true.
But when you look at the things we as women are ashamed about, the things we fear and worry about, the things we beat ourselves up for, it’s clear as day that we are ashamed of being the women we are. Deep down we feel like we’re too messy.
We’re ashamed that we are emotional. We’re ashamed of how easy it is for us to get our feelings hurt. We blame ourselves for not being more secure and fear that the people in our lives are going to leave when they realize how impossible it is for us to find emotional stability. And so out of that shame, we hide our feelings. We swallow our hurts and wounds and sometimes let people step on us so we don’t have to share our pain and risk being seen as lunatics. We’d rather be hurt and find ways to get past it on our own than own up to the fact that we are emotional, fragile beings who need assurance and hugs. We don’t want to have those conversations that reveal just how insecure and emotional we really are.
We’re ashamed that we want affection. We’re ashamed of our desires to receive those sweet “good morning” calls, find flowers on our doorstep, and be told that we are beautiful. We feel like men will look at us funny or find us impossible to satisfy and so we let things slip and allow others to treat us the way they want to treat us. We’d rather cry to ourselves than let on to the fact we require affection, affirmation, and admiration to feel loved. We’re ashamed of how hard it is to feel loved as a woman. We’re afraid that we ask too much and so sometimes we don’t ask at all.
We’re ashamed of our bodies. We’re ashamed that our bodies are different from other girls’, the ones plastered all over Pinterest with the clothes that fit in just the right way. We’re ashamed that we can’t pull off a single outfit that the mannequins wear in Forever 21. We’re ashamed when we’re too modest and we’re ashamed when we’re not modest enough. When girls with smaller waists and a smaller chest wear the same things in our closet, they’re seen as cute while we feel slutty. Because of this shame, this feeling that we ought to have a better body and better appearance, we resort to envy, discreet dieting, and shopping splurges. We constantly have to battle the lies we hear when we’re looking in the mirror. How is that we feel so confident without makeup one day and then feel utterly ugly without it the next? We are addicted to add-ons and trends as a way of fighting the lies and shame we have to deal with day after day.
We’re ashamed of being women. We’re ashamed of being highly relational and emotional. We’re ashamed of the way we care about our appearance. We’re ashamed of our insecurities and fears and weaknesses.
And that shame is killing us. It’s destroying us.
It’s making us feel less and less like the beautiful daughter of God we are. It’s making us hide more and more from the people who NEED to hear the truth so they can better love us and understand us.
I don’t know how this shame can be combated besides through God’s truth. And I know even then, it’s a matter of a girl’s heart. If she doesn’t want to accept the truth or doesn’t know how, she can be stuck in this shame for a really long time.
But what’s beautiful is when a woman does have her heart open. It’s been wounded enough times to the point where there’s enough cracks to let the truth pour through. So here’s the truth just waiting to pour through:
You are a beautiful woman. You were never designed to live in shame. You are beautifully made. God knows your heart and delights in it. You are made in God’s image. You are made to have emotions and feelings. You are made to care about relationships. You are made to be loved and accepted and cherished. You ARE loved and accepted and cherished. You are worthy of being romanced. You are perfectly imperfect. Your life as a woman is not to be looked down upon. Your life as a woman is meant to be celebrated. You are a woman worth celebrating.
I love you, sisters.