As I was getting out of the shower a couple of years ago, my then 2-year-old daughter asked a question for which I was not prepared:
"Mama, what are those lines on your tummy?"
In a matter of moments my mind went from shame to dread at answering to realizing neither of those emotions should have any weight on my answer. In that moment, the LORD and I had a brief conversation in which He whispered to me inaudibly of the beauty in the creation of life. Little did I realize at the time that the response He gave me for my precious, inquisitive daughter would be transformative to both of our views on beauty.
"Those are the lines where mama's tummy stretched to make room for you and sissy to grow in my tummy. Aren't they beautiful?"
Beautiful. Before that moment I never would have described my stretched, baggy, scarred stomach as beautiful. But that's just what it is. Somehow within my womb two little girls came into being and grew until the time came for them to join the world. Nothing about that process should be considered anything but beautiful. True, there may be pain in the process--physical pain and emotional pain--but the end result is life. Why should I feel any shame in bodily changes that yielded two amazing little girls?
When my eldest daughter asked her question, she wasn't attempting to point out my deficiencies; she merely noticed something about my body that she hadn't noticed before and wondered what it was. To her, my having stretchmarks and a C-section scar are no different than my having breasts. They are a part of what she associates with womanhood and motherhood, both of which she aspires to with all the daydreaming of a typical little girl. In that moment, I was given the opportunity to either communicate dissatisfaction with motherhood or joy. And, through the Holy Spirit's prompting, I was able to communicate joy even in one of my least favorite parts of being a mother.
She doesn't always notice my stretchmarks these days, but when she points them out, it's with comments like:
"I love your pretty lines, mama."
My pretty lines. That's just what they are. Beautiful reminders of the joys and terrors, the difficulties and triumphs of birthing children. May I daily embrace all that God has given me, the pleasant and the not-so-pleasant, knowing that my body is a temple that I am called to care for and use, not for my own glory, but for the glory of the LORD.