A Dare To Stop Looking

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A_RachelIn Somaliland I took a picture of my neighbour and printed it for her.

The old woman gripped the photo with two hands and her face broke into an exuberant, nearly toothless smile. “I’m old! I’m old!” she shouted.

She was grandmother and nomadic shepherdess old, leathered by sun and wind and a physically challenging life. This was the first time she had ever seen a reflection of herself.

None of my neighbours in Somaliland had mirrors in their homes, none had glass window panes in which to catch their passing reflection. The bottoms of their pots were too blackened by soot and ash to reflect much of anything. We didn’t live by bodies of water and it rarely rained so the likelihood of catching a glimpse of oneself in a puddle or lake was slim.

Some of the younger girls kept tiny slivers of broken mirrors, divided among sisters or friends, in their stack of belongings piled in the corner or tucked away into the suitcases they used as shelving units.

In Djibouti mirrors and windows are slightly more common but before we got a full-length mirror (it took nine years) there were few places I could go to get a good look at my top half and bottom half at the same time.

Sometimes I stood on a goat-skin stool and tried to see my calves in our bathroom mirror but that offered a skewed perspective. Our bathroom mirrors are cloudy and chipped and warbled. Our windows have paint splotches and dust swirls and barely reflect.

Have you ever counted how many times you look in the mirror every day? Even a quick side glance? Last week I counted. I’m embarrassed to tell you the number and it is probably lower because I was conscious of it: 29. Twenty-nine times I looked at and thought about my reflection.

My neighbour had gone her entire life without seeing what she looked like. I can’t even go fifty minutes.

What if we stopped looking?

What if we limited our view to a partial—half our face, just an arm, the arch of our foot?

What if we stopped demanding the mirror affirm, inspire, authenticate?

What if we stopped asking the mirror for miracles and for courage?

What if we just started living our lives—loving our spouses and our kids and our friends, serving our communities, pursuing God?

What if we look at and really see other people instead of being so consumed with how we look?

I don’t want to look at myself twenty-nine times per day. I want to look at Jesus that many times per day. I want to think about how to creatively serve other people that many times per day.

What if we stopped looking in the mirror and started looking at Jesus? We could stop demanding the mirror reflect an image of us, stop demanding ourselves to perfect that image, and start trusting our way to being a reflection of Him.

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A challenge: Let’s go one day, one single day, without looking in the mirror. No car windows. No store windows. No side glance while buckling the car seat or checking the rearview mirror. No make-up mirror. No selfie. No TV reflection while you’re working out. No checking out your butt in that photo someone took at that party while you were turned around.

I dare you to stop looking at yourself and see what you see.

Let us know how it goes.

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Rachel Pieh Jones
Rachel Pieh Jones has written for the New York Times, The Christian Science Monitor, EthnoTraveler, the Desiring God blog, and Skirt. She lives, writes, and runs in Djibouti with her husband and three children. She blogs at www.djiboutijones.com.
Rachel Pieh Jones
Rachel Pieh Jones

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