Looking in the Right Mirror

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A_DianaI remember visiting an elderly parishioner who had a treasure trove of beautiful antique furniture in her home. The house itself was a Craftsman bungalow, with built-ins, high ceilings topped by crown molding, and beautiful wood trim around every door and window.

She owned several old dressers, with lovely framed mirrors attached, and there was one mirror in particular that I enjoyed. It had been in several homes over the years, and somewhere along the way, had lost a fair amount of its silvering, causing a series of dark spots to appear, especially around the edges.

When I looked in that mirror, I liked what I saw. And may I just say–that’s a fairly rare occurrence in my life? Generally, I avoid mirrors. And cameras, unless I’m shooting the pictures myself. I don’t like my image very much. I’m working on it and have actually mustered up a fair amount of what feels very close to affection for the tired, older face I see these days.

But when I was visiting this home, I pretty much avoided mirrors, except to do the most basic daily ablutions or to check for spinach between my teeth. Yet somehow, that old, spotted mirror was easier for me to look into.

Why? 

Because if I positioned myself just right, I could blot out the parts of my body that I liked the least. And because the old silver could no longer hold as much light as it once did, everything else about me faded into a more impressionistic version of reality. I liked seeing less, I liked seeing a toned down version of the real me.

The real me, you see is quite often too much. I am too tall, too heavy, too opinionated, too candid, too loud, too bossy. And when I look in the mirror, I am uncomfortably reminded of all of that “too much-ness.” And the truly weird thing about all this too-much is that it leads to my feeling a whole lot less-than most of the time.

Slowly, and with a large dose of intentionality, I am learning to look for different kinds of mirrors in my life. I’m not sure I’ll ever love what I see in the mirrors hanging in my home, but I think I’m making progress. And I think I’m heading in the right direction when I choose to see myself in some different kinds of reflective surfaces.

Like . . .

  • my youngest granddaughter’s excited rush across the room to give me a hug every time she sees me
  • my eight-year-old granddaughter’s shy smile when she shows me her latest work-of-art
  • my middle grandson’s sweet hugs, without embarrassment or hesitation, whenever we come to visit
  • my eldest grandson’s surprising interest in honest discussion about tough issues
  • my adult children’s frequent choice to spend time with us–and with each other
  • my husband’s pride when he talks about me to our friends
  • my aging mom’s gratitude and relief every time I walk through her door

Or how about these kinds of reflections, shared connections, self-recognition …

  • thought-provoking and lyrical essays in this community and several others I enjoy out here in cyberspace
  • kind, considerate, intelligent, encouraging words left in comments
  • the words of spiritual-mentors-who-are-also-authors, like Madeleine L’Engle, Eugene Peterson, Luci Shaw, Walter Wangerin, Barbara Brown Taylor, Kathleen Norris, Anne Lamott, Walter Brueggemann, Parker Palmer, David Benner, Gerald May, Richard Rohr, Brene Brown

Perhaps most central to my sense of self is the mirror I find in scripture, and increasingly, in my own spirit, as I live more fully into the truths I find there. For the last dozen years of my journey, the simple prayer of the blind man by the side of the road has become a primary means of seeing myself true:

“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

It’s a good thing for me to remember, every single day, that I am a sinner. But what is even more important, and more personally empowering and affirming, is the rest of this prayer. There is One who is merciful, One who knows the weakness of my frame, One who has walked the road ahead of me, and who chooses me, every minute of every day, forever and ever, amen.

When I remember that Jesus sees me, just as he saw that man by the road, and has compassion on me despite my “too much-ness,” despite my sin, despite my messed up self-image, despite ALL of it–then I know I’m looking in the right mirror.

Yes, I am flawed, imperfect, messy, and needy.

BUT, I am also Beloved, Indwelt, Made-in-God’s-Image, Seen. And in that mirror, the one that shines in the eyes of my Saviour, I am exactly right–never too much, never less than. Glory be.

_________________

Image credit: David Goehring

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Diana Trautwein
Married to her college sweetheart for over 40 years, Diana is always wondering about things. She answers to Mom from their three adult kids and spouses and to Nana from their 8 grandkids, ranging in age from 3 to 22. For 17 years, after a mid-life call to ministry, she answered to Pastor Diana in two churches where she served as Associate Pastor. Since retiring at the end of 2010, she spends her time working as a spiritual director and writes on her blog, Just Wondering. For as long as she can remember, Jesus has been central to her story and the church an extension of her family. Not that either church or family is exactly perfect . . . but then, that’s what makes life interesting, right?
Diana Trautwein

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Comments

  1. Nancy Ruegg says:

    Your reflection is beautiful to me, too, Diana. You unveil your face with humility and honesty. and reflect the Lord’s glory (2 Corinthians 3:18). YES, YOU DO!! I see a wise, giving, spirited woman who has a God-inspired way with words. Can you see her in my admiration and appreciation?

  2. this is such a powerful POWERFUL thing, Diana. being too much, I get that. but you aren’t. I’m not. we are worthy.

  3. So much wisdom in your words, Diana.

    Kupa read out your post to me in a diner. We had just ordered the juiciest burgers! Had to come back and comment to let you know how much I value your voice.

    • pastordt says:

      How kind of you to take to time to tell me this, Tina. I’m glad you both found some resonance here.

  4. sandyhay says:

    I smile as I read your interactions with your grandchildren. The fact that they choose us is more than just because we’re their grandma. Again I smile…I have been praying what I call the Jesus Prayer for years. I was going through a particularly hard summer and I read about it in one of Madeleine L’Engle’s books (Your bookshelf author/mentors look like mine 🙂 Thanks for the rest of the verse ,,,who chooses me, every minute of eery day, forever and ever. Hallelujah!!!

    • pastordt says:

      Glad you smiled, Sandy – my grandkids make me smile all the time. I really started using the Jesus Prayer about five years ago, I think. And some piece of it is the most frequent worded prayer I offer these days. Many prayers are sighs and images about now.

  5. Saskia Wishart says:

    ” …But what is even more important, and more personally empowering and affirming, is the rest of this prayer. There is One who is merciful, One who knows the weakness of my frame, One who has walked the road ahead of me, and who chooses me, every minute of every day, forever and ever, amen.”

    Chosen. Everyday. Going to think on these words today.

    • pastordt says:

      So glad that spoke to you, Saskia. Such an important truth – and one that is too often really hard to hang onto.

  6. Anne-Marie says:

    I feel as if I’ve opened a box of kindness chocolates. so much good. And needed, as one who seeks to be kind to everyone but can be so harsh to self. I love your mirrors. There’s a tenderness to the whole post, and to the love you let in and reflect out. Finding new mirrors rather than just avoiding the old. Lovely, brilliant. Thank you.

  7. Such a powerful thing to be seen and known. This is beautiful, thank you!

  8. Gwen Acres says:

    Yes, the mirroring eyes of Jesus sets me free ! Thank you Diana for sharing all the mirrors you have looked into over the years. I know I belong and am beautiful in the eyes of Jesus but I must hold His gaze to believe it. So quickly self doubt and less than creeps in when I look away. You speak truth and encouragement so beautifully…

    • pastordt says:

      So true, isn’t it? That old liar moves right into our psyches with such ease and quickness! Thanks for reading and commenting, friend.

  9. Two Minute Poem on Reflecting

    about Reflections;
    about Babies mimicking
    Mothers’ smiles and learning
    Cues of approval
    or shame;
    about the Autistic Child
    struggling to read
    the telling Maps
    on other Faces;
    about my mother
    who has forgotten herself
    and me
    but who remembers
    how to love;
    about Mirrors mirroring each other
    creating an Infinity of images
    in either Direction;
    on Eternity
    where what we see through the glass darkly,
    will be known,
    face to face.

    Constance April 6, 2014

    • pastordt says:

      Thanks so much for sharing this with us here, Constance. Really lovely. My mom is also suffering from dementia, as is my MIL. My mom has not forgotten how to love, either – and so far, she still knows who she is and who I am. My MIL is much further down the road, but still she shines through in tiny moments from time to time. And that verse is one of my favorites in all of scripture – that dark glass and the promise of clarity when we are known, face-to-face!

  10. Elizabeth Stewart says:

    I love the different kinds of reflective surfaces you mentioned here. And don’t these show the real us, who we are where it really counts, inwardly? Beautiful post!

  11. wnhen@aol.com says:

    I used to not pay attention to mirrors. For years I looked much younger than I was. But then I started Chemo Therapy. In two months I aged twenty years. My wife’s best friend, with whom we had shared Christmas dinner, didn’t recognize me when I started talking with her in February. I changed my facebook picture so people would know what I now look like. I look in the mirror more now. It is still a shock to me when I see myself. But I want people to recognize me, and I want to recognize myself. I am neither of the images in the mirror that I am used to. I am neither of my facebook picdtures. There is a reality of me that has nothing to do with what other see or what I see in the mirror. That is the me that God sees, the one I am used to thinking about. I don’t have as many grandchildren, but last Thursday when I read Vita my latest children’s story, she asked me to read it three times. That was a lovely reflection back to me. Thank you for your writing.

    • Erin Wilson says:

      I’m so touched by this. You want people to recognize you…it’s a lovely gift you’re giving to those around you. And as you say, your inner self, the one God sees, the one your nearest and dearest see, that ‘you’ will always be recognizable.

      (I hope + pray that the chemo works like it’s supposed to!!)

    • pastordt says:

      Wow, Newell, this journey of illness has been hard (and harsh) in so many ways. Yet you face into it with grace and such a spirit of good will and humility. I WILL read your lovely story – I started it, loved what I saw and then got called away for something and forgot to go back. This week, I promise!

      • wnhen@aol.com says:

        no hurry on reading the story. The one I read to her Thursday is the next in the series.

  12. Kelley Nikondeha says:

    Diana, I love the better mirrors you named. I remember Madeline L’Engle writing about mirrors, and choosing those very kind! It’s a good reminder to allow my reflection in my husband’s eyes, my son’s hunger for conversation, my daughter’s smile when she sees me first thing in the morning to be the better mirrors that might reflect my truer self!

    • pastordt says:

      L’Engle was my go-to inspiration for a lotta years – from my eldest girl’s intro to “A Wrinkle in Time” in her 3rd grade class until I went to seminary – about a dozen years. I’ve read almost everything she wrote – and even heard her speak twice. But I’ve completely forgotten about the mirror bit – though it doesn’t surprise me! Thanks for reading and commenting, Kelley – and yes! You’re looking in exactly the right places!

  13. Bev Murrill says:

    You never disappoint, Diana. I can relate with not being happy with the mirror nowadays, and wish it didn’t have to be quite so frank.

    However, frankness in people is such a relief and an amazing blessing. It’s because of who you are that so many people love you, and that candid, open, loving honesty is so key for others to be made free.

    And you’re right… the most beautiful mirror is the one that comes from looking at Jesus. Lovely.

    • pastordt says:

      You are the most faithful reader and encourager, Bev! Thanks so much for this lovely comment.

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