Redemption

Redemption surprises me. 

I think somewhere in my youth or early childhood I picked up the idea that to be a follower of the Most High God was to be of all women most rigid and cold. To wrap my gray wool robes of righteousness tightly about myself and hide away in an effort to keep myself perfect and pure.

I thought it meant conservation – to carefully preserve or protect something.

And then I began to experience redemption – the process of being bought back, restored.

It surprises me.

And it’s so much better.

So much less fear.

I can breathe here.

It’s not exactly being restored to what I once was. It feels more like being restored to the original design. I’m not becoming a stranger, because there were always echoes and hints of this Jenny in me. It feels like a more complete version of me. More free. Less self-focused. Braver. Bolder. Kinder. More open. Less numb.

I still have a long way to go. I will probably feel like I have a long way to go for the rest of my life. But I also know that the gap between 2017-me and 2022-me is far greater than the gap between 2013-me and 2017-me, because redemption will do that.

Redemption is not about cutting things out and giving things up – although there are many things I have said no to, because I was moving in a specific direction and those things weren’t helping me. If I want my hair to curl more than frizz, I have to put down the fine-tooth comb.

I started to say, “Sometimes redemption is little things, like…” and then I sat here and stared into the distance and tried to think of something small. But nothing feels small to me. Everything heals such a specific piece of my heart that even if it might look small to you, it matters too much to me to call it that.

It’s a whole facet of personality that five years ago I would (and did) flatly deny the existence of – because it frightened me, because it felt too big for me, but now it makes me feel a new kind of alive and has taken me into places and positions that I still find astonishing.

It’s the world of accounting and finance, which I blanket-rejected because I feared it and which has become one of my favorite things, a work that connects me to people and teaches me to love them like nothing else has.

It’s my relationship with my parents, who I used to hold at arm’s length in an effort to self-protect and who I now appreciate so deeply for the fact that they chose to invite my existence into this world, and for the level of lifelong love they’ve given me ever since I showed up. 

It’s my self-confidence, which translates into my willingness to show up fully, my ability to say no, my willingness to do things I’m not already competent at, my willingness to be wrong and to change my mind and to grow, and my ability to focus outward and be generous without expectations.

It’s my relationship with my husband, which becomes both simpler and richer as we grow.

It’s my beauty, which is a line that feels like a miracle to me. 

I didn’t expect Him to redeem my beauty.

I believe that beauty is woven into the soul of woman, a bone-deep need that no amount of religion or abuse can fully erase – but four years ago, I didn’t want to talk about it. It felt hopeless, out of my reach, and I was probably a bit wrong or shallow for even wanting it. 

But in my experience, a woman who does not believe she is beautiful usually shows up in one of three ways: 

With judgment and contempt, because if I cannot be beautiful then I don’t want you to be either. 

Or with a flurry of effort, which can look like covering my body with all the pretty things, but it can also look like covering myself with a desperate giving and serving and self-sacrifice, because if I can just be righteous enough surely it won’t matter if I’m beautiful or not. 

Or with so many walls, so much self-protection, that I’m really not showing up at all. 

I’ve done all of those things, but the last one was my particular favorite. 

But none of those things filled that need, and none of them were showing up as the best version of me. I didn’t become capable of showing up with a generous, non-transactional love until after He redeemed my beauty. Until after I learned to love the form I’m clothed in, and to like it, too. Until my mirror-reflection became someone to live up to, instead of someone to overcome.

And nowhere has this been more true than in my marriage.

I struggled to write about this, because I think people get uncomfortable when I talk about beauty and someone always feels the need to remind me that Looks Are Not The Most Important Thing and Who You Are On The Inside Is Matters More, etc etc.

Yes, yes. I have yet to find someone who believes that it doesn’t matter what kind of person you are, as long as you look pretty. And I also don’t think you can see much beauty in any layer of yourself if you know that most of your thoughts and actions are ugly. 

But what if you don’t have to choose between a beautiful body and a beautiful spirit? What if you can’t fully have one without the other?

And what if the way you see yourself, including physically with your eyes, matters deep down to the depths of your soul?

I didn’t expect Him to redeem my beauty, but now I don’t see how He could redeem me without it. It filters through every part of my life. It changes every interaction I have. 

I would not feel fully claimed without it.

And that was what taking these photos was about. 

A celebration of reclamation.

A remembrance of redemption.

Of me, His daughter.

Of my beauty, His design.

All the photography credits go to Her Royal Lenswoman, Crystal Hostetler, who does gorgeous work and makes the experience a whole delight.

2 thoughts on “Redemption

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