I woke up to the sound of snickering and laughter coming from the other side of the bedroom door. My head was spinning, body trembling, and heart pounding. I closed my eyes again and tried to convince myself it was just a really bad dream. This kind of thing doesn’t happen to girls like me…
And what kind of girl would that be? Let me give you some context. A girl who just gets dressed up for a night of fun… who doesn’t think twice about trying to look beautiful to go to a party…girls who value who they are on the inside and out…
But, sadly, it did happen. And it happens more often than you might imagine–to beautiful girls who, like me, who are trying to be the best they can be.
Beautiful girls. How does the word beauty play into my story? Let’s take a step back. What is the definition of beauty? Personally, when I think of beauty, I imagine snapshots of creation. Sunrises that paint the morning into existence, sunsets of neon colors, northern lights twinkling in a sky full of constellations, white sands that stretch on for miles, bright blue Caribbean waters, mountains that unabashedly reach for the heavens, the list is limitless. But in pragmatic terms, beauty is defined in the Merriam-Webster dictionary as “the quality or aggregate of qualities in a person or thing that gives pleasure to the senses or pleasurably exalts the mind or spirit.” It goes on to include these words “especially: a beautiful woman.”
That last part, did you catch it? Why do you suppose the dictionary includes a woman under the definition of beautiful? There’s no doubt the snapshots of creation exalt my spirit, but Eve was undoubtedly the crowning jewel of all creation. Ladies, we are God’s pièce de résistance (masterpiece). What a gift we’ve been given!
From Cleopatra to Joan of Arc, men have crossed the seas and fought many a war for a beautiful woman. There is undoubtedly a mighty power in the beauty a woman holds that can cause a man to cross seas and fight wars. But, there is a flip side to this. Usher in a fallen world, and with that fall came a thirst for power over and possession of beautiful things. An incredible gift so easily twisted, distorted, idolized, and stripped apart from God’s holy intentions. What God intended for good, man can use for evil.
The depth and danger of such ungodliness came crashing into my own little world my sophomore year of college. I was best described as a conservatively-bred, partially-sheltered, naïve-in-the-collegiate-athletic culture, far-from-her-roots, nineteen-year-old. Being young and naïve surely helped fuel the elation I felt upon being invited to a joint birthday party for a teammate and her guy-friend at a high-rise penthouse in my new home and among my new friends in Miami. I couldn’t wait to get all dolled up to join in on the fun. As I stepped out for an expectant evening, I felt what Eve and millions of women for centuries have felt–beautiful.
But beauty turned to ashes that night in the blink of a mascara-smeared eye. I awoke to the realization that I had been gang raped by four party goers; one of them was the birthday boy himself. I was crushed. I grieved what was stolen from me. I wanted nothing more than to hide from the world. I convinced myself this “gift” of being a woman was actually a curse and I was so angry with God. I strayed away from my Heavenly Father and from my true self. I built a wall in my heart so high and I pushed away anyone and everyone that came too close. I went numb.
“What makes you vulnerable, makes you beautiful.” – Brené Brown
Ladies, sometimes it feels safer to simply hide who you are–a beautiful woman made by God–because with womanly beauty also comes vulnerability. And vulnerability means “being open to attack or damage; being capable of physical or emotional damage.” I did NOT like that feeling.
But, then something else happened. I was sporadically attending a church down near my college and on one of the Sundays I attended, the sermon was centered on 1 Corinthians 12:9-10.
“But He said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
Lightbulb. And gut-check.
I was trying so hard to rely on my own strength and to come up with my own answers as to why this happened to be. I tried to be tough. And, with that, I had all but lost who God made me to be. Sure, on the exterior I still looked the part, and in front of close friends and family I acted the part as well, but my light inside had been snuffed out. That day, at church, I tapped out. It was time to stop relying on my own strength and trust in the one who made me. The one who calls me beautiful and the one who knows what power I have in His name and in His image.
Matthew 11: 28-30 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 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. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
My soul needed rest. Once I laid my hurt and anger at His feet, I felt like my own feet began to float. I died to myself that day; and like a phoenix I rose from those ashes. That, my friends, is a beautiful thing. I felt the spark in my soul begin to rekindle. I felt capable of moving forward and being the beautiful, but humble; strong, but empathetic; fiery, but sweet woman the God of the Universe intended for me to be. And no man can ever take that away. I realized that evil exists, but God is greater. Flip! Genesis 50:20 “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many peopleshould be kept alive, as they are today.”
Yes, history has shown us that there is power in physical beauty. It has also shown us that many have used that power in the wrong way. With great power comes great responsibility. The Bible makes it clear that true beauty is more than physical beauty. Your beauty is not solely defined by your outward appearance. When I chose to become emotionally numb, distant, and turn the lights off, I lost the true power that comes with beauty. My ability to nurture, love, comfort, empathize, guide and encourage those around me disappeared. Here’s a hard truth: it is possible to look beautiful on the outside while being the opposite on the inside. I am here to urge you to resist the cocoon! Don’t hide away and deprive those that need you to be your best self of your gifts and talents.
Proverbs 31:30 “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.”
Embrace that you are a beautiful woman, inside and out, created by a loving father. Know what power you hold and use it for good. When you rest in the comfort of the Lord Almighty, when you run to your Heavenly Father and choose to be all that He intended for you, you are a force to be reckoned with and no enemy shall prevail against you. You will change more lives than you could have ever imagined. When we long for a life without difficulties remember this, Oak trees are made strong in contrary winds and diamonds are made beautiful under pressure.
My story has a redemptive ending that only the God of the Universe could have scripted. Shortly after I was convicted that bunkering down wasn’t what God desired for me, I met the man who would become my husband, Zach. God knew exactly what kind of man I needed. Zach came into my life with a sledge hammer in one hand and tender touch in the other. He tore down the wall I had built around me. This August will be our fourth anniversary and we have two beautiful little girls.
As Romans 8:28 says “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” My story is woven into the grand narrative of our savior and because I surrendered the hurt and heartache to Him, I am free and fully able to guide others to the grace and peace that can be found nowhere else. Let your light shine, be beautiful inside and out, know the power you have and use it constructively to lift others up. Remember, you are God’s masterpiece! And God doesn’t make mistakes.
One of my absolute favorite quotes sums it up so well:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine as children do. It’s not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own lights shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
Andi lives in the Panhandle of Florida with her husband and two girls Maison and Blake-leigh. Being the wife of an active duty Pararescueman (AKA Guardian Angel) comes with its unique set of challenges, but one thing for certain is that life is never boring. She currently works as a Personal Trainer and has made it her mission to remind women whose they are and why they were created to thrive, not merely survive. She uses her testimony to positively impact others and coach them to reach their God-given potential both physically and spiritually.
Follow Andi on Instagram @andi_elizabeth21