The most pandemic wound of our world is fatherlessness. Every little girl yearns to be pursued by her father. She desires to be wanted. She asks the questions, Do you delight in me? Am I worth fighting for? Do you want me? Do you see me? Do you value me? Am I beautiful? Am I enough? When these questions are answered through a father appropriately loving, touching, kissing and affirming his daughter she doesn’t need to run off with the first boy who finds her attractive.
But when these questions aren’t answered in an appropriate way, she seeks to find these answers on her own. When a father doesn’t give his daughter the attention and love she craves, her need for male acceptance is bottomless. Often times these unanswered questions lead to eating disorders, depression and promiscuity to name a few.
All my life I’ve yearned for love. Craved physical touch so deeply at times I thought I’d faint. Ached for it, yet feared it with every fiber of my being. I was abused so much I didn’t even know what good physical touch should feel like. As a little girl and teenager I was never told I was beautiful or enough. These unanswered questions left my curiosity with a hunger that couldn’t satisfied my heart.
I searched for these answers on my own. I thought if I achieved a certain weight I would feel beautiful and enough. But the truth is, the more weight I lost the more empty I felt. My quest to find beauty could have killed me. I got so sick that I could literally hear my heart struggling to beat. I was petrified. One night I took my pulse and it was in the high twenties. I fought back the tears because I was afraid my heart wouldn’t be capable of handling the energy my tears would produce. My bones were protruding, I was freezing, my hair was falling out in clumps, my finger nails were purple and I had fine hair growing all over my body. I was killing myself. All my heart ached for was to be held and told I was beautiful.
In college I pursued men because I wanted to be noticed. This left me feeling even more empty and alone. Every guy I liked was addicted to pornography. What the heck was wrong with me? Was this my fault?
Then a guy wanted me to get plastic surgery. When he mentioned those words my heart froze. I felt gross. So does this mean I’m not beautiful? You don’t like me just the way I am? You don’t think I’m attractive? You think I’m ugly. Even though I would never even consider the mere thought of plastic surgery, those were painful words to hear.
Then I went to India and my life changed.
I never knew that God the Father loved me and didn’t even really know He existed. In India, Eric Clark, a FOCUS missionary at the time, gave a talk about God the Father’s love. I broke down and wept. I had never heard about a love like that before. I couldn’t fathom someone loving me the way in which Eric described how God loves us. He used adjectives to describe God the Father that were foreign to me. He said God was gentle, loving, merciful, understanding, compassionate, and that He adored us (His creation). It was exceedingly challenging for me to digest what Eric was saying. But there was something about God the Father that captivated me. Even though I didn’t know Him or understand how He could love me, I yearned to with all my heart. I desperately craved love. And not the counterfeit love that the world offers, but genuine authentic love – the love of the Father.
After Eric’s talk I went up to him, Eric I want to know God like that. Can you teach me? One of the things Eric told me was that in order to know God, I must frequent the sacraments. So I made a commitment that I would attend daily Mass, go to adoration and go to confession more.
It changed my life.
As I healed I learned that my validation of beauty and sense of acceptance isn’t the width of my waist, my BMI, the fact that I don’t have a boyfriend or the fact that I do. I can never quench my yearning to be loved through the number that flashes back at me on the scale. My worth comes from my intrinsic dignity as a human being.
I want to lovingly encourage you that no matter where you are with your relationship with God to make a commitment to get to know Him more. If you don’t pray at all, then pray for 5 mins. If you don’t go to Sunday Mass, then go this Sunday. If you already go to Sunday Mass, then pick an extra day to go during the week too. Pray the Rosary and if you’ve never prayed it, that’s okay, just start. Take little steps each day at furthering your relationship with God the Father. And sit in silence too and ask Him to show you who you are as His daughter. He sees beauty in you. Tell Him you long to see it too.
God adores you. You are precious to Him. You are His daughter. He loves you so. And He desires to lavish His love on you. You are beautiful, wanted and loved. You are enough.
I would go to Adoration and just sit there in silence. Daily I would ask Him, oftentimes in tears, to show me the beauty He sees in me. I would beg Him to show me His love. Then I would just be still. He showed me His love and how beautiful I am because I’m His daughter.
I’m far from perfect and I definitely don’t have it all together, but I still do these things daily and will for the rest of my life. A lot of women have told me that they think if they had a boyfriend or husband everything in their lives would be better. This is not true ladies. The truth is, if I didn’t first and foremost find my identity and beauty in our sweet Father I would never believe my boyfriend when he tells me I’m beautiful. Never. No exceptions. You must find your beauty and worth in God first.
Read the book The Return of the Prodigal Son by Henri Nouwen. It changed my life and I know it will change yours too.
And don’t forget, no matter what you have done, the Father adores you. He died to take your sin. You are His creation. He created you out of love, to be loved. He has a plan for you! You have a purpose. Go to Him. He is waiting with His loving, compassionate and gentle Arms to forgive, heal and restore you.
Worry about finding a man to love you?
God created the universe, surely He didn’t forget about your future. Every woman yearns for a man who is going to protect and cherish her. And remember, you are worth waiting for. You are worth a man who will fight for you. A man who will protect and cherish you. A man who will truly keep you safe in ever sense of the word. Wait for a man to honor you for the beautiful gift that you are. The man God has for you won’t pressure you to have sex, he will wait patiently until your wedding night, so you can both give yourselves to each other as a sincere gift of self. Don’t ever conform to immorality to attract a man. And if you have sinned in the past, then go to confession and begin again. You are worth more than that. In fact, your worth is beyond human comprehension.
Also if someone is pressuring you to change your body, remember that plastic surgery is like saying, sorry God, but you didn’t make me good enough. I think I should help you out there and make a few changes. Satan throws lies at our insecurities all the time saying we aren’t good enough. But confidence in God, can and will, combat those lies. In order to do that, you need to be firmly rooted in who you are. Ladies, don’t let society mold your confidence.
My last nugget of advice to you and something I have learned over the years… Don’t search for your father’s love everywhere, find it in the Father.
P.S. You are enough.
(Used with permission from www.madeinhisimage.org)
Maura Byrne is a former Division 1 runner and soccer player. She loves the ocean, surfing, swimming, running, California, anything adventurous, J.crew, gerber daisies, wine, baking, gourmet cooking, and serving the poor and dying in India. She lives in San Diego, CA, and founded the ministry www.madeinhisimage.org, to help offer healing for women suffering from eating disorders, physical, and or sexual abuse, which entails, educating all women on the nature and dignity of the human person, created in the image and likeness of God.