She Walks in the Light

     I think it’s safe to say that 2020 has not really panned out the way we all thought it would. We’ve all been tried and tested in many different ways and probably will for quite a while longer. 

     I, like most, have had quite a bit of extra time on my hands, which brings me here. I have a desire to be genuine and authentic, and to share that with anyone who is interested in the person behind the paintbrush. These writings will delve into my personhood and it is my ultimate hope that they reflect the One to whom I credit everything. 

     I was in the 6th grade when my struggle with body image / self-esteem began. Once a lie or a thought takes hold, its rather difficult and painful to uproot it. So, instead you just learn to accept it. What started as appearance insecurities manifested into all other kinds. From my personality, to my interests, to my intellect, I always felt like I came up short or less than those around me. Anytime I was given a compliment, my anxiety twisted it into a cruel joke or a pity comment. For a while, I remember thinking that people were buying my paintings because they felt sorry for me that I thought I could ever make it as an artist. I realize there’s little to no logic to back that, but anxiety rarely pays attention to reality. Thankfully, I am now on the other side of this, but from ages 12-26 it felt like an impossible battle. 

     The message I always interpreted from media and those around me growing up was that if you exercise you will be thin, if you are thin you will be beautiful and if you’re beautiful then people will love you. That message never sat well with me, so once I got to college, I tried a new tactic. I quite literally did not exercise and daily I helped myself to the soft serve ice cream freshmen year. You can guess what happened…! It was no surprise that during my second year of college I developed pretty severe anxiety. I didn’t know I was experiencing anxiety at the time though, not until the ER doctor told me point blank.

     The mental health benefits of exercise were never really presented to me or maybe they were, but I was too jaded to listen. So, for a few years I relied on medicine to ‘fix’ the problem. Anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications, like any, have some unfortunate side effects. I always lost weight while taking a medicine and then would blow up like a balloon when going off of it, which inevitably worsened the anxiety leading me back to taking medicine. Not a great cycle.

     In the summer of 2018, I painted “She Walks in the Light” & to this day it is my favorite painting that I’ve ever created. As I was mixing a certain color, I thought “that is so beautiful”! Simultaneously, I heard very clearly from His still voice “Kate, that’s what I think about you”. I teared up both out of gratitude and conviction for I most certainly didn’t believe it, that I was beautiful. 

     When I moved back home to Columbus, Ga, I went from having an amazing community and group of friends in Charleston to basically having 1 friend. Quite literally due to sheer boredom and time, I joined a gym. It helped my anxiety tremendously, and for the first time in a long while, I started to feel confident. The mental benefits, to me, far outweighed the physical. I even started to enjoy running, which I thought was next to impossible. But even with exercise and looser fitting clothes, I still heard that nagging voice telling me I was still not ‘attractive’ or ‘worthy’ or ‘good enough’. Anytime someone complimented me on my slimmer appearance, all I heard was “you looked really bad before”. I was so tired of having this lack of confidence and how it seemed to seep into most areas of my life. From art, to friendships, to dating, to relating to people in general… the list went on and on. 

     It wasn’t until discussing body image & self esteem with my therapist, from a biblical perspective, that the lightbulb went off. I think I had always believed that the whole purpose of my physical body was to be attractive, which I realize is incredibly vain, but praise God that is most certainly not the purpose of mine or anyone’s body. “Do you not know that your body is a dwelling place of the Holy Spirit? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. Therefore, glorify God in your body” 1 Corinthians 6: 19-20. It became clear to me that I didn’t fully understand what it meant to “glorify God” with my body & that undoubtedly was a big reason of my consistent lack of self esteem. 

     I was brought to a place of graceful conviction. Conviction that I had never been thankful for having a healthy & working body. It was also extremely humbling and convicting when my therapist pointed out that rejecting God’s truth about me was an act of disobedience to Him. Though difficult to be sure, learning to replace lies and fears about myself with His truth has lead to peace, freedom and joy. For years, I kept reaching for the next thing or the next person to make me feel valued, worthy or beautiful. Sometimes those things worked, but never for very long. “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again”. These words from Jesus were not about actual water, but about where we look to find life and meaning. He promises that He is the only lasting and satisfying offer. His scripture says that to everyone who is in Him, he/she is unique, beautiful, loved, special, known, created for purpose, cared for, lovely, important, forgiven, protected, chosen, redeemed, able, delighted in & His. How could I reject those truths for one vapid lie?

     Glorifying God in our bodies, to me, is taking care of our bodies through exercise, gratitude, being mindful of what we’re putting in our bodies & working hard at whatever job we’ve been given. Those are things that allow us to march on & speak of His love, which is our ultimate purpose. There is a stronghold over our culture when it comes to beauty. That’s not a revelation, I think its apparent to anyone. But as Paul says again to the church in Corinth, “You were bought with a price, do not become slaves of men”. We shouldn’t look to culture or others to define our worth, for it will always fall short. We instead should rest peacefully in the faithful and powerful truth of the Lord God.

     Do I now feel confident and on top of the world every day? Definitely not, but I know where to run when the negative thoughts try to creep in and what truth to replace them with. This has gone far beyond the way I think about my appearance and much deeper into how grateful I am to have been created intricately for a purpose. In Genesis, we read about how our Creator spoke things into existence, but in chapter 2 verse 22, it says “And the rib that He had taken from the man He made into a woman”. The Hebrew word for ‘made’ means built, which means that nothing else in all of creation got more attention when being created than the woman. I hear so often by some who speak on the subject of insecurity and confidence, that if you just search deep enough or believe hard enough that you’re great just the way you are, you will find happiness. That message leaves all the pressure and responsibility on the individual. After a while, that philosophy crumbles. Jesus, however, offers us healing, redemption and peace through his life, death and resurrection.

     “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed to us” Romans 8:18. I am in a strange way thankful for the once uphill battle against insecurity, for it lead me to the peaceful valley where His grace satisfied and restored my hurt. I’m also forever grateful that God has always and continues to speak through art. If not for the piece “She Walks in the Light”, I’m sure He would have found another way to draw me nearer, but I love that it was through painting and color. The world can feel a little hopeless and dark, especially now, but from my experience, thankfulness and gratitude for what we have in the present is never wasted. I hope you are able to give thanks today! 

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