So the night before Lent begins, I take this good long look at myself in the mirror.
I really take my reflection in. The whole of the woman, not the parts:
Not the tiny scar on the bridge of my nose, or the fine wrinkles, or the clogged pores.
I’m dripping wet, with a chocolate-brown terry cloth towel wrapped around my midsection. I step back and take in the full-length woman in the reflection. I try hard to really see her. She’s got water droplets on her shoulders, and she’s making a puddle on the tile under her feet.
This feels sort of other-worldly, like I’m staring at a stranger, like I haven’t actually looked at that woman this way in a long time. I see her differently like this, like I suddenly remember how her pouched middle means motherhood stretched her. And sure, the fine lines do age her like a burr-oak, but those years made her who she is.
I don’t feel sorry for her. Not at all. But I do feel more tender about her than I usually do. Why have I been so unfairly harsh to her?
I need to love that woman better.
I don’t frown at the woman in the mirror. I don’t chide or criticize her, and I resist the urge to fret over the fact that she has a rather large pimple on her nose — at age 42.
But I do say goodbye to her. I say goodbye, because I really do love her. And I say goodbye, because I won’t see her for a little while. And I hope I’ll see something different when I come back again. Not something more sleek, or stylish, or more toned, or less pimply.
I only want to see more of Christ.
So long, self. We’ll see you Easter morning, when my Hope rises with the sun.
I’m giving up my own reflection for Lent.
I’m going mirror-free for the next 46 days. I won’t see that woman again until I step out of the shower — with water on my shoulders — before Sunrise Service. It will be the morning when, under the wooden cross of my country church, I celebrate my only Hope rising up from the grave. I might have a trumpet pressed to my lips.
But now? Now… I’ve covered all of my mirrors. I won’t look at my physical reflection, but I’m going to take a long, hard look at my spiritual one. I want to know, soul-deep, how I’m always pre-approved.
I want to know before the trumpet sounds: What am I really reflecting here?
Yeah. I’m going mirror-free at a time when I have more speaking engagements than I’ve ever had in my whole life. I’m abandoning my reflection at a time when I’m feeling perhaps the most vulnerable ever — as I send my book about Love Idols out to the wild.
But when I glance toward the mirror for the next 46 days, I don’t want to see me. I want to see these words… I want to see the words that tell me I’m pre-approved, loved, cherished, chosen.
I won’t be able to look at my reflection until the snow melts, until the daffodils bloom.
Until then, I won’t see myself when I comb my hair, or brush my teeth. Won’t take that one final look before heading out the door, to make sure the outfit looks right. I won’t know if I blinked mascara onto my skin, or if that pimple ever did go away.
Yes, this could get interesting.
And yes, I’ll probably have to trust my husband to tell me if I have spinach in my teeth. And to tell me I look beautiful.
And yes, Mr. Ophthalmologist: I hereby pledge to give up eye pencils.
And no, Mrs. Police Officer: I did not cover my car mirrors, but I’ll only use those for driving purposes. No peeking at myself at stop signs.
Look, I won’t wish the woman in the mirror away over this Lenten season. I will simply ask God to conform her to the Son’s likeness.
This is about love idols. This is about seeing myself through God’s eyes — not people’s.
My Love Idol has been the approval of others — not just in a physical sense. It goes far deeper.
I have wanted the A in life. I’ve doubted I’m ever “enough.” I’ve relied on my performance. I’ve feared man more than God.
I’ll ask God to give me — as Timothy Keller writes — a bit of “self-forgetfulness.” I want to forget myself, not only with regard to my physical reflection, but my SOUL reflection. I want to evict all Love Idols. For good and for GOD.
My heart needs a Gospel-saturated, self-forgetful Lent. And, I believe, the Gospel is the only fair way to see who I really am. I’ve been a poor judge of me.
I need to forget myself right here, right now, … when I get snubbed by friends, or when I feel flabby and wrinkled,
or when I get a critical note in my in-box, or when I am trying too hard to make a good impression.
I must forget myself when Satan whispers, “What will others think of you?”
I’ve had to forget myself in far more painful situations: when friends betray,
when hoped-for love does not come, when I’m shunned, when someone shames instead of uplifts.
Those moments can defeat us or define us.
We might look at the evidence, these shards of a broken life,
and allow them to convict us as unworthy of love.
We might let human rejection convince us that Satan is right:
We really are unloved and unapproved.
We could let our mistakes shame us into dark, quiet corners.
But no, Jesus won’t have it.
When the Love Idol jeers, when we feel like losers, God answers back, “You are not.”
Christ continually shouts through the universe, “You have a love that is already yours.
You have nothing to prove to anyone. You have nothing to prove to Me.
You are significant and pre-approved and utterly cherished.
Not because you are ‘good,’ but because you are Mine.”
Take that, Satan.
Keller asks, “How can we worry about being snubbed now?
How can we worry about being ignored now?
How can we care that much about what we look like in the mirror?”
~ An excerpt from Love Idol.
Look to the Savior, not the self. The Messiah, not the mirror.
I’m going to wake up Easter morning, and I pray that I might see a woman who looks more like her Savior.
Until then? So long self … I’m all in. Let’s do this …
You with me?
Read more encouragement by Jennifer in If God is Real – Then What?
Jennifer Dukes Lee used to cover crime, politics, and natural disasters as an award-winning news journalist in the Midwest. Now, Jennifer uses her reporting skills to chase after the biggest story in history: the redemptive story of Christ. Soon, her words will make their way into her debut nonfiction Christian book, Love Idol: Letting Go of Your Need for Approval – and Seeing Yourself through God’s Eyes.She and her husband live on the Lee family farm in Iowa with their two daughters.
To learn more about the author, please visit Jennifer Dukes Lee