I adore The Queen of Soul–have since I was a scrawny wee lass.
I’ve also always been of the opinion that her 1967 hit, “Natural Woman,” is not really a song about a guy. (Yes, I know Carol King wrote it. But just like she did with Otis Redding’s “Respect”–Aretha owned it.)
When I brought up my theory to a couple of people from my previous church, it made them a little…squirmy.[Maybe it was the hair color commercial. Stupid, stupid hair color commercial.]
Although I love him a lot, when my soul was in the lost and found, it wasn’t Chris who came along to claim it. And frankly, even when I make Chris happy, I feel like I probably could do more.
At the time, I don’t think I did a good job explaining what “you make me feel like a natural woman” meant, in that context. I knew what it meant to me, but I didn’t do a great job of explaining it.
I think to understand the spiritual significance of what it means to “feel like a natural woman,” you have to first understand the 800 lb. gorilla of pretense and fakery most women feel compelled to tote around on their shoulders daily.
In other words, it doesn’t seem like that big a deal if you assume women are all walking around normally feeling natural, real and comfortable in our own skin.
Riiiiiiiigght. Because that’s totally the experience most of us are living, yes?
We’re not faking things in our marriages, right? With our friends? Or at the PTO?
And God knows, none of us are guilty of putting up a false front at church, right?
I was pondering this over the weekend, when the following passage came up on the screen (emphasis mine):
And we all, who with unveiled faces reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
It’s part of a passage which, in context, is comparing how Moses veiled his face because the reflected divine glory of the old covenant would have been too much for the Israelites. But the new covenant is about a glory we’re supposed to be reflecting openly, as we become more like Christ. Literally and figuratively (with the notable exception of Paul) the glory of Christ doesn’t blind or injure; it illuminates and heals.
Which may be something worth pondering if your goal is to follow Him.
It also made me think of my favorite C.S. Lewis book, Till We Have Faces. The pagan queen Orual has spent most of her life behind a self-imposed veil. At the end of her life, she comes face to face with her natural self–blurts out her true motivations–and finds them unbearably petty and selfish.
When the time comes to you at which you will be forced at last to utter the speech which has lain at the center of your soul for years, which you have, all that time, idiot-like, been saying over and over, you’ll not talk about joy of words. I saw well why the gods do not speak openly, nor let us answer. Till that need can be dug out of us, why should they hear the babble that we think we mean? How can they meet us face to face till we have faces?
Indeed. How can we meet anyone face to face, till we’re ready to stand bareface? How can we call any experience real, if we’re not willing to be real within it? How can we reflect any kind of glory if we’re not able to lay down our masks, and expose our natural selves?
Which brings me back around to Aretha. Because I don’t think we can just decide to lay aside our veils and masks–we took them up for a reason, and it probably felt like survival. Like a need. Like air.
But I think we get beautiful, glorious moments of grace. Unexpected moments when grace descends and frees us, even for just a little while, from our own personal, internal Taliban and that grinding, oppressive need to keep the mask up, to maintain the veil. Moments when we feel… real.
And those moments are nothing short of miraculous.