“Joy” – Nehemiah 8:10

Today’s post is written by our Brave Writer, Jazmyne Tamar Johnson 

Joy:   Nehemiah 8:10 – “Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

During my childhood, I can recall that I always wanted to be a warrior princess. Oddly enough, I was not too intrigued with the idea of being left at home while the men (or boys) went out to war. I found war to be an art, a craft, an adventure that should be enjoyed by girls too. I remember the thrill that I always felt before hearing the warriors’ battle cries. It all looked fun to me, as a child: the king calling forth his men and preparing them with this powerful, inspirational speech that assured their victory, despite their possible death, the uniform that these men would wear as tokens of their allegiance to their kingdom, and the weapons! I felt as though life should be just like that; valiant, noble, and war-driven.

Growing up has a way of destroying such dreams, doesn’t it?

Often times, you may find yourself discounting your dreams as “silly fantasies” or “unrealistic expectations.” You might even find yourself not dreaming at all. For me, my dream was shattered when I heard “you’re an ugly girl” from someone that I thought to be truly beautiful. For years, I allowed for this proclamation to hold such power over me, that I abandoned my dreams of being a warrior princess because princesses were supposed to be beautiful. I can remember crying to my mother and father asking “Why can’t I look like her?” or “Why am I so ugly?” God bless them! They would always offer a rebuttal, a truth, that I was beautiful and that I was loved; that she “wasn’t as beautiful” as I was. I never believed them.

Swan

Years continued and the lie was still attached to me. I had grown to embrace it as an unchangeable fact rather than question it with tears. I would support it with statements like, “At least I’m smart!” and I made sure to humor others (even if it were at my expense) just to maintain some sense of worth. I felt that as a woman, I was subjugated by my female peers and that God couldn’t make us all pretty because then we’d all be fools. In retrospect, I realize how truly ignorant I was to feel such things, but hurt has a way of changing your mindset, doesn’t it?

I can remember throughout my high school years, kissing the hallway walls with my body hidden under layers of clothes-even in the summertime. I didn’t want anyone to notice me, speak to me, walk beside me, or acknowledge that I was there. I preferred invisibility and insignificance to being exposed; I associated my individualism with ugliness and being teased. I felt that my being ugly would make it inevitable for me to escape unfriendly remarks made about my appearance. I would often wear my big brother’s hoodies and sweats to school because my figure couldn’t be picked up in them. The birth of skinny jeans brought an end to the sweats, I can assure you, but the hoodie stayed. I remember feeling safe and invisible underneath the umbrella of the hood. My ears and my hair were shielded, so I didn’t feel as exposed.

It wasn’t until here recently, that I could truly look into the mirror and be satisfied with who I saw in it. It wasn’t until here recently, that I could honestly say that I didn’t hate the woman that God created me to be. Growing up, I had a lot of hair. For me, I felt as though my hair was my “saving grace,” considering I lacked a beautiful face. I’d always make a fuss about the way it looked, as a child, in comparison with the other girls at school. Some girls would wear their hair in one ponytail without barrettes, but my mother always made sure to braid mine and coordinate it with my outfit. As I reflect on the time that she took to make sure that her little girl looked presentable, and how I hated the way that she did my hair because of how the kids would tease me, I can’t help but allow the tears to form and fall. I didn’t want to add any more attention to myself than I already had accomplished as “The Ugly One,” so I wanted to fit in as much as possible. Different meant that I would be noticed.

Bald Girl

The first step towards my growth to loving myself, was shaving my head. I had been thinking it over for months before I decided to actually follow through with it. I felt as though my hair was keeping me from growing deeper into loving the woman that God created. One day, I got home from class, grabbed the clippers, and commenced to ridding myself of, what I felt, was a source of grief for me. When the task was completed, I can remember feeling such an overwhelming sense of horror! I thought “Oh my gosh! I can’t believe I just allowed myself to do that!” Shortly thereafter, I felt an overwhelming sense of peace and joy.

“You see! I told you that you were beautiful!”

It was the voice of my Saviour, proclaiming the truth that I had denied for 21 years. For the first time in my life, I looked in the mirror and smiled from a place of joy that I’ve never felt before. I remember thinking “Dang! I look good!,” I remember laughing myself to sleep that night in the joy of the Lord, and I remember waking up the next morning and not feeling fear or anxiety on what others would think of it or say about it. FOR THE FIRST TIME IN MY LIFE, I FELT FREE TO BE WHO I WAS AND I DIDN’T WANT TO HIDE IT.

This freedom has become my joy and I can honestly say that it is not because of who I am, in myself, but because of who I gave up myself for. My hair, being my most prized possession lay on the floor that night as a sacrifice to God; I was giving the only thing that I could give of worth to Him and asking Him to intervene in my life. And He did! When we decide that we are going to choose joy over our laments, the Lord invades our lives and gives us exactly what we need (and then some!) so that we can walk in strength, authority, and freedom!

Freedom

 

Jazmyne is zealous for seeing God’s love reflected in the lives of the broken-spirited and the oppressed. She aspires to use her writing as a means to communicate His love to the world. Her dream is to help raise a generation of Christ-like individuals who help to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to Earth. You can read more of her work on her blog: http://writtenbyjazmynetamar.com.

Photo Cred: Catie Sayeg via photopin cc)

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

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