Beloved chapel series addresses women’s real-life struggles
Kim Graham (left), recent guest speaker for the Beloved women's chapel, stands with the leaders of the ministry Lauren Belieff, Andrea Cottrell, and Carolyn Caldwell. JENNIFER ROSS/ The Chimes
The Beloved women’s chapel series this semester is exploring the issues of body image, romance, desires, expectations and beauty.
This series provides the opportunity for students to explore these issues and discover the areas in which God desires them to fully love who he created them to be.
Transparency about body image
Kim Graham, a spiritual director from Biola's Institute of Spiritual Formation, opened this semester’s Beloved chapel. Graham spoke in the last two Beloved chapels on the body image, sharing her history with self-defeating body image and anorexia. The chapel was full of women the first Friday, making a record number of attendees. This semester’s focus on body image is a result of the women who have bravely confided in the women’s groups’ leaders. Issues that deeply affect women all over campus are discussed in a non-threatening, caring, and outreaching environment.
Encountering God’s love
“The heart of Beloved is understanding what we all hear intellectually, that God loves us,” said Andrea Cottrell, director of the Beloved women’s ministry. “If we really believe that and understand that, it would change who we are drastically.” The heart and goal of Beloved is to understand that, because of God’s love, women should not feel scared or insecure.
Possible speakers in the weeks to come are Jamie Campbell, Cassandra Van Zandt, Joanne Jung and Gina Sunukjian. Campbell will be speaking about what love is and what love looks like. The goal of Beloved is to address the topics that women on campus are struggling with and would like to know more about.
“We all struggle -- whether we have boyfriends, friends, parents -- we all go through it to some degree,” Cottrell said.
Ministry intentional and specific
The decision to apply for the position of director of the Beloved ministry was a calling from God Cottrell stated. With the idea of helping women placed on her heart, Cottrell is taking this opportunity to “not speak about things that could be heard as a mixed group in chapel, but to speak about stuff that really applies to us as women.”
It is a common misconception that when a woman is a Christian, she should not be struggling in any way, or that there should be a promoted image of happiness and contentment in life.
“I grew up in a church that was very legalistic. You had to be a good Christian and work at it,” said Graham. “I grew up with the understanding that I could lose face with God. If he hates sin, then he must hate me.”
It was not until two semesters after Graham came to Biola that she realized God could still love her despite her sin.
Honesty about the struggles
Many would agree that the Christian life is all about the struggle. Christians are Christians because they recognize how much they need God. According to both Cottrell and Graham, women should not feel ashamed of sharing their struggles because everyone experiences them -- some are just more visible then others.
“The world says you are loved if you look a certain way -- I experience love more deeply when I am broken, rather than when I am put together,” Graham said.
Speaker shares personal experiences
Having grown up with little male affirmation, and a mother who had a very low self-esteem, Graham easily fell into the belief that there must be something wrong with her.
“I never needed to lose weight. I was always the perfect weight for my height.”
Believing she needed to lose weight in order to be loved, Graham became obsessed with how much she ate and started counting calories. She felt that if she knew how much she ate and was in control, then she would not have to worry about gaining weight.
“My getting healthy was an ironic twist to me getting unhealthy,” Graham said.
Women relate their looks to self-worth and how much they are loved, but to what cost? “When we start allowing our body to start showing our value then we are in trouble,” Graham said.
Relating being overweight to not being loved, as Graham experienced growing up, is an extremely common issue women struggle with. Television and advertisements teach women to despise their own image if they do not look like women in advertisements -- and if they do look like T.V. models, then companies would promote a different image to encourage them to buy different products. Companies sell products to “help” women try to achieve their goals to lose weight or look more beautiful, but in the end, they succeed in selling products that women really do not need.
“If I listened to my body [and the media] then I would probably be unloved my whole life,” Graham said.
Graham emphasized that not all women can look a certain way, because “health looks different for different people.” Instead of focusing on what other people may think, women should focus instead on what God thinks.
Opening up is first step
“The key to recover is to open up and let other people know what you are struggling with,” said Graham. “It’s the scariest part and the most important part.”
“I’ve never known the depth of love that I did until I opened up and let God,” Said Graham. “There are so many lies going on in your head, it’s hard to know the truth.”
Similar to Biola’s mission statement of “equipping men and women in mind and character to impact the world for the Lord Jesus Christ,” the Beloved ministry’s goal is to equip women with a solid foundation in their relationship with God, so they will be prepared to battle the things they will face once they graduate and take the next steps into the future.
Struggling with body image and need some help and guidance? Feel free to contact Kim Graham at email@example.com. Also, for comments or question about Beloved or to get in contact with a student leader for joining a small group, email the Beloved staff at firstname.lastname@example.org