Fran is a final year Theology student at the University of Leeds, and an all-round wonder woman.
I still class myself as fairly new to this whole 'being a woman of God' thing. Every time I think I'm getting somewhere I suddenly find a whole load more stuff I need to get clued up on... I find I get pretty caught up in needing to know all of the answers but this, for so long, has felt like a battle I am definitely losing.
I'm a third year Theology student... That's how seriously I took the 'getting clued up' - and I do love it. But I have recently discovered where I'm going wrong.
No amount of knowledge, no amount of right answers or convincing facts can replace the need for self-acceptance, for a loving and trusting relationship with God. I don't expect this is something new for you, you've heard it all before, right? Me too.
Being a woman of God is a true blessing, it has given me a new outlook on the world, my life, myself. It has given me new friendships, new opportunities, all of which I am incredibly grateful for. But, it has also presented me with new ideals, new expectations of myself, new people to compare myself to.
It’s no bad thing for me to reassess my priorities and the expectations I have of myself. But the danger I have succumbed to time and time again is finding myself unworthy or lacking in comparison to the wonderful women of God I am so blessed to have in my life, and even those I just admire from afar.
Once again I found comfort in reading up on it, I read all the books that reminded me of my God-given worth - God thinks I'm beautiful... He has a plan for me... He's pursuing me... He will use me for some great deeds. I knew it all, but it didn't FEEL true.
Here's where I realized that I needed a head to heart experience. I needed to truly believe in what I knew in my head and to learn how to act like that. Part of being a woman of God these days is wearing the beauty that God blessed you with and not being afraid of it.
Society tells us that there is always something we need to change or someone we should aspire to look like. Yet the beauty I see in my sisters in Christ is not a constant need for 'stuff' they don't have or a beauty that is painted on pristinely each morning along with some designer labels. The beauty I see in them is God, they are comfortable in their own skin and they know their worth. Their smiles are genuine and their joy is so real, it’s not fleeting or unattainable, it is constant and ever present.
This is the lesson I'm learning, to believe in the truths of Christ that he has written in every aspect of my being and not the lies of a society obsessed with physical appearance or outward wealth.
I am rich in all the things that truly matter.
Now I’m not great at noticing in myself the beauty or gifts that God has blessed me with but obviously God needed to sort that out, and He did!
God challenged me this New Year at the Homecoming Youth2000 retreat, through a wonderful priest, to learn how to accept a compliment. He asked me where I thought compliments came from and I came up blank. He explained that a compliment is given selflessly, through love…
And where does selfless love come from? GOD.
Next time someone compliments you don’t make your excuses, just say thank you. God is showering you with love in that moment, don’t reject Him. This was the challenge that priest gave me that day and the challenge I pass on to you today. We often bat away compliments – ‘Oh this old thing, I’ve had this for years!’ ‘Oh no, you should see her do it, now that’s talent!’ – but in doing so we deny His affection. Being a woman of God in the 21st Century means we have a duty to wear our God-given beauty and this can start with as little as accepting a compliment!