A little background to this Love Letter: On Saturday, we launched a synchroblog on SheLoves magazine: A Love Letter to my Body and Megan Gahan led us in her beautiful letter to her own body. It was a first for us on SheLoves and Claire, our Wellness Editor, and I were a little nervous, just because we were new at it. But even as early as 3am when the post went live, the posts started pouring in. The responses are courageous, raw, honest, healing and just stunning.
For most of Saturday, I wiped away tears as I approved comments and read posts. In between, I also tried to be present to my family, enjoying a week away at my in-laws’ home with family from near and very far. I had no extra room in my head or in my days to write my own letter. Last night we landed home and today, I finally got to settle in with laundry and water fights. There’s sunflowers in the kitchen and milk in the fridge. This afternoon I turned off Tweetdeck and squeezed in some writing time … I am thankful to participate in this outpouring of Love for our bodies. Something is happening and it feels a bit like God’s time for God’s women. A resurrection of sorts. You’ll see what I mean.
[ Perhaps Parental Guidance is recommended. I am spilling a lot of my story.]
You might as well have lived across the street or in the township, because the divide between us ran as thick as the Apartheid legislation. Words that separated people, also separated me and you …Place and time divided us between soul and spirit and body.
They didn’t think those words would reach deeper and wider and further than beaches and neighbourhoods and schools. They thought the divide would end there. But you and I know better. You know those words–legislative lines meant to separate people without–cut deep within. Ripped and stripped within our very being.
Set us apart. Literally. I slept at 15 Christelle Street and you, Body, lived on the other side of somewhere.
I used you for tennis and swimming, but always, even early on, felt awkward in a swimsuit. I used you for netball and riding my bike, as fast as I could, into freedom to the other side of town.
You knew I lived in my brain. In books. In words I poured out into my journal. I enjoyed the world inside my head where it was friendly and welcoming and fun and full of adventure. Like the Famous Five. I devoured poetry to help me find clues to the other side of the deep caverns across and within.
So, dear Body, I learned about you in Cosmopolitan. Yep, I did.
But you were wrapped in shame, not pleasure.
Always shame first, then guilt and maybe then pleasure.
Thanks to the puny man with the soft penis hanging from his pants on the train between Cape Town and Paarl, I associated sex with shame.
I had no defense for the onslaught. First from him, then from boys who wanted more than their share. I wish I’d had fun, but I didn’t.
Instead, you became numb. I drowned you in red wine … needed to pierce you with porn to feel something. Anything.
But you had been disconnected, life hanging limp from you. Asleep. Numb.
Come to think of it, I should probably thank the boyfriend for that night when he slapped you across the face and sent you down the stairs.
You woke up, a little. You got up from the bottom of that stairwell and you walked up, the franticness setting thick on your chest and yet you rose. You and I knew this was not us. It had gone too far.
I was an intelligent woman and the divides between right and wrong had blurred.
I never learned how to stand up for you, fight for you, protect you.
I broke you and allowed you to be broken. I rejected you, despised you. I gave you away. Discarded you.
I didn’t know or think you were worthy.
But that night, I said, Enough! I rose. We rose and we ran out. We ran as far away as our scooter would carry us deep into the night. And we started the long journey to finding each other.
Jesus, sitting with women around a breakfast table, welcomed me … us. Broken, shamed. Still a blur of what we could be then.
Those women saw us. And Jesus met us and stretched out his arms between east and west and welcomed us to fall into deep … deep Love. Finding resurrection into his Body that was broken for us.
We started picking up the pieces, you and I.
We nourished body soul spirit with Proverbs … like soup for a very wounded soul. Strengthening with every slurp of a sentence. We learned to read Psalms and moved on to New Testament. Then finally, we found our dance in Isaiah.
Those outstretched arms, those Jesus arms, they healed. They cleansed. They erased. They redeemed.
Dear Body, you and I, we know Resurrection, deeply, intimately.
I still remember the day when God words whispered to me, walking down stairs. Words that said, I have made you a woman so you can be a woman.
Until that day I had never worn any nail polish. Never painted your toes or your fingers. I’d never felt worthy. Never felt like I had permission. But that day, those words, they gave me permission.
More God words whispered, Take time to be a woman.
For a whole year I stayed away from boys. Learned to love myself for who I am. For being enough. Just us and God. We leaned wild and hungry into Creator God … learned to love ourself.
I even blessed the toes I had kept hidden from the world. Those two big toes. Where all our intelligence is, one teacher used to say. For years I never wore sandals. No flip flops.
But more God words resonated and healed: How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news. The good news that now lived deep inside of us said, Those are beautiful feet. And I believed the words and made peace with our feet.
Those feet carried us across many borders. Those feet criss-crossed New York and Taipei and now Vancouver. A few months ago, they danced in Burundi.
In Canada, we started a whole new chapter and learned to enjoy the love of a man.
Dear Body, I am no longer afraid to tell our shame stories.
Those shamed fragments have taught me to love into the brokenness. We know what darkness is capable of in us … what ripping, what stealing, what desperate reaching. We also know what Healing is possible.
Recently, after three babies birthed out of you and 21 kilometers crossed inside of you–beautiful feet running running running–I began to speak Grace and thanks to you. I began to traverse the distance from soul to thigh to tummy and thick ankle and speak Love. Those words felt awkward at first, but we have been through war and famine, you and I.
Now, in this war zone, I declare peace. Now, in this body, we taste of Freedom. Freedom that courses through us when we push into lies and pray and breathe out old story and welcome Truth. Yes, that Freedom that shifts paradigms and perceptions and has been etching out a new us.
Dear Body, I now love you for your brokenness and imperfections and the shame you were willing to carry and the heaviness of old story you lifted with me. If I had to do it again, if I had to fly again down those stairs, so I can understand a little of the suffering and desperation and loneliness of others, I would do it again.
I think you would too. In fact, I know you would.
You came into this world so strong, so ready to carry … You have carried me faithfully and you’ve never ever complained. You have given me a home to grow babies in and push babies out. In this home we’ve learned to nurse hungry mouths and hug long and cry big tears and fly and dance and pulse and beat drums and fling arms wide and embrace the wide open spaces between humans.
You and me, we’re an us now.
That divide, no longer.
And Body, if we can heal, if you and I can find our home and purpose together, in spite of the canyons that existed between us, I imagine there’s a lot of healing possible in this world. And I want to imagine there’s a lot more peace to come for all of us humans.
I’d really really like that.
Ek’s baie lief en dankbaar vir jou. Much Love,