reconciling things

“Allow it all to happen: beauty and terror…” Rilke

“Hi, my name is Daja and I’m a recovering People Pleaser.”

(Your part is “Hi Daja!” enthusiastically so I know you’re not mad at me.)

Sad Divorced Woman

I remember when I had to go to court for my divorce to be finalized. I stared into my closet. What would be the last thing I would wear as his wife? You can be sure I did my make-up and fixed my hair. I would not wear my grief like a badge of honor. I wanted to shine.

Throughout the last few years one indication of who was really rooting for me and who was not was their reaction to how put together I looked going out. There is a difference between “Wow, you look great!” and “Wow….you look….great?” It was clear who expected me to be falling apart and letting myself go. I had to play the part of the sad divorced woman in the story they had crafted of me in their minds. But when I looked good, smiled, laughed, went out with friends, it didn’t fit the narrative.

And while part of that is my vanity (I fully admit that I can be very vain), part of it is simply to live an accurate representation of the truth–the truth of the goodness of God in my life. I might at times be sad. I may be divorced. And I am a woman. But I am not a sad divorced woman. I am a beloved daughter of God. I am striving to live the endangered feminine image, established by eternal decrees–Mother, Virgin, Bride. As Gertrud von le Fort writes it is not man, but the woman who must rescue this image from a culture bent on its destruction.

“In reality woman had lost her power as symbol while she still believed to be retaining it. A culture that in its last analysis is no longer turned toward God in reverence and with a sense of responsibility has, if viewed according to a deeper insight, also foregone the presence of woman. The woman, however, who recklessly and unconditionally allows herself to become part of such a culture, basically affirms only her own exclusion. Her presence is nothing more than a pretense….

“It is not the man but the woman who must save the endangered feminine image; she must rescue it in its three-fold revelation as established by eternal decrees…”

The Eternal Woman by Gertrud von le Fort

Beauty Is Not Shallow

The cultural sentiment of “I don’t care what anyone thinks” has led to an elevation of the ugly and the grotesque. Just imagine what Flannery would write for this generation. For sure it would be correct in all ways, but politically. It’s so difficult to find beauty sometimes that when you see it you want to stop and admire. When you see a woman authentically feminine or a man unashamedly masculine, it’s literally breathtaking. Those who truly embrace beauty change the atmosphere of an entire room, their very existence being a sign of contradiction to a culture of ugliness. Those who project something beautiful, in a sense, rescue mankind from our own determination to plunge into sadness, self-pity, and violence by being unnecessarily provocative.

Victor Hugo agrees “There is in this world no function more important than that of being charming. The forest glade would be incomplete without the humming-bird. To shed joy around, to radiate happiness, to cast light upon dark days, to be the golden thread of our destiny, and the very spirit of grace and harmony, is not this to render a service?”

Perhaps it is not shallow. Perhaps it is an act of charity. And perhaps it does matter what other people think.We may not be responsible for everything people conclude (some people are oriented toward evil after all), but we needn’t aid them in their false narratives by projecting something less than true. When people look at my life do they see only sadness? God forbid, because that is not the truth! What might they think of the beautiful Faith I claim to love if all I project is a depressed woman who is hanging onto life by a thread? In some way, daily putting myself together is a prophetic act that speaks of the goodness and tenderness of God. With this view, putting on my make-up, wearing the good bra, styling my hair, are ways I can give testimony of God’s call to the abundant life.

Last week was the feast of Saints Perpetua and Felicity, martyrs in the third century. Before they were sent into the gladiator games where they gave their lives for the truth of Christ, Perpetua looked for a pin, “she likewise pinned up her disheveled hair; for it was not meet that a martyr should suffer with hair disheveled, lest she should seem to grieve in her glory.” (From The Passion of Saints Perpetua and Felicity)

They were gored to death by a “savage cow” the intent being that this would make the greatest mockery of their femininity and motherhood, Felicity having just given birth while in prison.

These great saints died without hair disheveled. Our culture today would call it vanity. But what a tremendous witness to the truth.

With that example in mind, I am trying to cultivate a spirit within me that says, “I don’t care what people think of me, but I do care what people think of the Jesus I love.” If my behavior, my words, my witness, and my willingness to embrace beauty can point to something more sublime than this valley of tears, I want to participate fully. If it doesn’t work at the very least, I can feel good about myself and conquer my day being oriented myself toward something better than pajamas at the Walmart.

Or as Elizabeth Taylor said, “Put on some lipstick and pull yourself together.”

(While we are thinking about not glorifying the ugly, we can also ponder not glorifying the grit.)

3 thoughts on “I Care What People Think

  1. Kylie ;) says:

    Yes, yes, and YES… a lovely professor told some other ladies and I that the colors we wear is not something fully subjective… God has woven a color wheel into each of our faces, and when we dress to bring that out, we glorify Him… this statement, going to colleges with professional dress codes, and spending some time in Italy has made me realize that how I dress is part of how I show up for a day and glorify God… LOVE this!!


  2. MaryAnn Carter says:

    I love this so much ❤️


  3. Minoska Villegas says:

    Enjoyed reading this! Thank you Daja. Glad and blessed by our paths having crossed. Bless you friend.


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