By Erin Crisp
My sisters, not my blood sisters (I don't have any of those), but my soul sisters and I visited an art museum together last spring. When I'm around these two beautiful women, I feel heard. I feel known. There is no pretense and no anxiety. These two women possess the kind of deep soul beauty that comes from years of belonging to Christ.
We round a corner and there she is, Judith and Holofernes. She is active and muscular, strong and decisive. She is defending the Israelites, and I am immediately drawn to her as courageous and loyal.
She is beauty that stands in stark contrast to the Romeo/Juliet, Fred/Ginger, Meg Ryan/Tom Hanks, Kristen Stewart/Robert Pattinson, Emma Stone/Ryan Gosling relationship portrayals to which we are continuously exposed. Something about her resonates with something about me, and I silently thank Vasari for his portrayal.
My wondering echoes our wandering through the museum, a feast for the visual senses in every room on every floor.
My mind is frequently transported to another room altogether, a room where shallow images and perception are a primary focus. This room is crowded with a dozen high school freshman girls every Sunday night. They huddle into the corners of couches, sprawl across the carpet, clutch pillows to hide behind, or parade back and forth from the bathroom in the timeless ritual of adolescence. Instagram photos are the currency du jour. Likes on photos equal status, and one must be just the right amount of smart to fit into this room.
Oh, how different our relationships as women become when we recognize and value the beauty of the inner Judith as well as the Proverbs 31 woman. We hold these two identities in tension, and most of us have had one more reinforced than the other.
Someone has helped us define, either through Instagram likes, constructive criticism or verbal reinforcement, some version of beauty.
I know that some of my ninth-grade girls have only been exposed to the predominant media narrative around beauty with its falsehoods and shallowness. I want them to see Judith as she is portrayed here and know that she exists within each of us. I want them to see the beauty of sister-friends and to know that there are people in our lives who are worth defending.
I pray for the courage of Judith to combat my own insecurities and pride, and I'm prompted to fight for the relationships that matter (these sister-friends, I must continue to carve out time for them) and to love with ferocity.
My sisters and I eat our picnic lunch on a perfect expanse of lawn in front of the St. Louis art museum. Our skin is too pale, and our mommy clothes are frumpy. Even without our children in tow (left at home with dear husbands) it is clear that in our current season of life, our style could best be described as "motherhood."
My face hurts from laughing, and any concern for my appearance has vanished. Our lunch on the lawn feels to me like an extension of the beauty hanging on the walls inside.
NOTE: This story originally appeared on the Annesley Writers' Forum on February 8, 2017. We republish it here with their kind permission.
A native of New Brunswick, Canada and alum of Indiana Wesleyan University, Erin's academic credentials include a BA in English education, Masters in instructional technology, and most of a doctoral degree in education from Indiana University. Her husband, Eric, is ordained in the Wesleyan church, and they see each other in passing these days while shuttling three teen/preteen boys to events and activities. While her full time job involves developing curriculum for adult learners attending Indiana Wesleyan, from 8 years old, her hobby has been writing. Erin has published devotional pieces in Seedbed's Motherhood as a Spiritual Journey, several editions of the annual Asbury Seminary Reader, a booklet for all attendees of the Wesleyan Women's Alive conference, Pastors Spouse Connection, and also for the Annesley Writer's Forum. Her five favorite activities include family time, writing, working (which she loves), hiking, and ice cream on the front porch with friends, so stop by next time you're in Marion, Indiana.