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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