the ugly mirror
There you are, doing errands in the ensemble you just threw on, and feeling pretty fine. Your loose jeans with the artisanal rips (like, they’re distressed), the Gap belt you overpaid for, your favorite white button-down and a swinging pendant that screams Fair Trade. You’re about to grab a coffee when you catch sight of yourself in a storefront window. No, that can’t be right. The disheveled girl who glances up is the opposite of effortless – she is trying so hard.
On the way home you pick her apart. And the Gap wants their belt back.
Appearances are so flimsy, we even fool ourselves. The way we present our outsides is dictated by the world we aim to join or the one we epitomize. It goes like this. When I want to be professional, I don’t wear the ripped jeans, right? And when I’m in Rwanda, I wear only the wedding band. I package myself for the day, to assimilate and be comfortable. But on stressful days I don a symbol or a talisman to remind me of who I am.
Even still, souls reveal. Character shows.
The plot is largely out of our control but character never is. Glennon Doyle Melton.
There is a constant feed of affirming memes available to us on social media lending us strength; I love reading those. We all want to hear that we are enough, and when we see a quote that reminds us, it feels so personal, we murmur Amen.
I have to be a little careful with that. It’s one thing to accept true affirmations that silence the lies of the enemy, and it’s another to pretend that I am something I’m still becoming.
Pretending, for me, has made me trust myself less.
God has a great remedy for this. It’s called the Ugly Mirror. He raises it only when he’s strengthened me to see a jagged edge he wants to sand into his likeness. He works to test our characters with the precision of a diamond cutter, removing slivers and dust, because he loves us so. His yoke is easy and his burden is light.
The other day I had to decide whether to have company when I was 4 days deep into a cold, feeling drained and ill. I felt terrible postponing the backyard picnic, but I was sure I was not up to it, and I’m practicing being honest with myself even when other people (who aren’t me) would behave in more compliant ways.
When my soul can’t be reached for comment, I live from a list of rules. Make The Most People Happy gets a lot of play, and when I can’t do that, it hurts. It hurts because I don’t like having to be that person who is ok with letting people down. That, folks, would be pride. When I make choices that show how selfish I am, and I am more embarrassed that you saw that than that it’s true, Houston, we have a problem.
The Ugly Mirror reflects what my pride keeps trying to hide from me – my semi-formed character. And I need to believe my eyes, but not stare for too long. To stop and seek forgiveness first for the pride, which shows up as grief. After that, my eyes will see clearly again. See other people and their needs and all the things pride blinds.
“Keeping company with Jesus in the space between wanting to change and not been able to change through effort alone can be a difficult thing to do. Desiring God and not demanding an outcome keeps us in the risky place of waiting and longing. The truth is that we do not know how God intends to conform us to the image of his Son….becoming aware of what is true and false about us is essential for spiritual growth, and is not always comfortable.” – Spiritual Disciplines Handbook, A.A. Calhoun
God is always winning our hearts. That is his jam.
For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him. 2 Chronicles 16:9
This blameless heart business takes time, and it helps if we are honest and patient with ourselves. Mirrors are funny, they never show us the real story. If they did, we would see our Jesus-bleached hearts, and not our brightly polished anythings.
I am pursuing him in the tension of not knowing how to. Screwing it up mercilessly. Living honest to my heart that is still, most days, dark and cold. I ask God to do what only he can do. He asks me to be willing to be in transition.
Show me how it is safe to be me, even honest me, because my flaws are not fatal. Today I would rather be clothed in the person you have sanctified thus far than a version of her I dress up as. To tell the whole story and be the testimony of a woman changed. I wear your righteousness.
Never Been Unloved, by Michael W. Smith, performed by Kara Williamson