Today I want to welcome Emily Wierenga to write in my place. Her new book, Chasing Silhouettes: How to Help A Loved One Battling an Eating Disorder is now available wherever books and ebooks are sold. She is an eating disorder survivor and is now telling her story. It is real and raw and vulnerable and needed. In her own words . . .
Wind catches the curtains in my children’s bedroom. They sleep with flushed cheeks and eyelashes long and every night I check on them before I go to sleep, and every night I feel both afraid and awed by their beauty.
I touch lips to their skin, remember how my mum prayed over me as I grew in her womb, that I wouldn’t be outwardly attractive. Because it was the heart that counted, the inner beauty, she said.
But I knew I had an appearance. I could see it in the mirror. And because my mum never gave me compliments, when I was young, and my dad was often absent, I began to believe I was ugly. Insignificant. Not worth my father’s time or my mother’s affirmation.
As a result I wanted nothing more than to be beautiful.
And for years I chased this elusive beauty until I became anorexic until it nearly killed me.
Even now when my husband tells me I’m pretty, I wonder why he didn’t tell me that yesterday, and what makes me pretty enough today to warrant a compliment, and I’m desperately afraid of him losing interest in me. Of him never being home, like my father.
But I also have my mother’s fear of vanity. Whenever someone comments on how handsome my sons are, I catch myself saying, “I know, it worries me,” instead of, “Thank you,” and I need to stop this. By assigning fear or worry to looks, we give them more power than they deserve.
Why are we afraid? My mum thought beauty could lead to vanity could lead to an eating disorder. So then I got one anyways.
I am learning to celebrate my children in the same way I celebrate a piece of art. I do not fear the beauty found in a sunrise, in mountains, in a cathedral, in a Van Gogh. It’s a beauty that points to a gracious and loving God. So why, then, should I fear it in the flesh?
We always have two choices: to inspire fear, or to inspire love. And I want to inspire love in my children. To help them see everything in their life—appearance, talents, friends, family—as a priceless gift.
If God has given them good looks, they need to respect those looks (by exhibiting tender loving care towards themselves, in addition to integrity, modesty, and humility), and if he has given them extraordinary talents, to honor them with those, and so forth.
I will—and do—tell them, “You are so beautiful!” but I also praise them in other areas too, and then I remind them of where these gifts come from: “God has given you a wonderful gift with people,” etcetera.
I don’t want my children to be afraid of anything, because perfect love casts out fear. Rather, I want them to be motivated by the knowledge that the Creator of the Universe loves us enough to give us good and beautiful things.
Including our reflection in the mirror.
How do you inspire love, versus fear, in your children? How do you handle the topic of beauty/looks/appearance in your home?
Emily Wierenga is giving away one copy of her newly released book, Chasing Silhouettes: How to Help a Loved One Battling an Eating Disorder, with Dr. Gregory Jantz. If you or someone you know could use this book, or if you would like a copy for your library or your church, please let her know in the comments below. To order a copy of the book, please visit here. Leave a comment for a chance to win a copy.
(This will be the only guest post in a series I’m writing, 31 Days to Hush. You can click here to see a list of all the posts, updated daily. If you would like to receive these quiet thoughts in your email inbox, subscribe now.)