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Storyteller. Grace Dweller.

I’m Jennifer — wife of an Iowa farmer, mom to two girls, new book author. I believe in you, because I believe in Jesus. You matter to Him, and you matter to me. more »

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Monday 17th March 2014

When the Mirror Falls

When I announced that I was giving up mirrors for Lent, Elisa Pulliam — a biblical life coach and speaker– said she would do the same. We both wanted to give up our own reflections — and reflect more of Christ.

This is Elisa’s story — a powerful story for any woman who has ever used mirrors or the world’s yardsticks to see if she measures up. I am honored to have Elisa on the blog today.

When the Mirror Falls
by Elisa Pulliam

I know he was only looking out for my best, and I recognize now how having a chronically ill son can make you a bit obsessive when it comes to health issues. My uncle wasn’t trying to hurt me, even though his words stole my innocence.

“Hey girl, you’re getting a gut. Better watch it before you get fat.”

A gut? What’s a gut?

He poked into my 5th grade belly, quite noticeable in my bathing suit, as I leaned against the front porch column on that hot summer day. From that moment forward, I lost the reflection of myself in the mirror. I obsessed over my gut and the fear of getting fat. I only heard his words…words that morphed into warped thinking and fear-based living.

Gut became fat. Norman Rockwell, girl in mirror
Pretty became ugly.
Content became jealous.
Sufficient became not enough.

Every morning as I dressed for school, the recording of lies would haunt me. I changed my outfit dozens of times trying to find the one in which I looked the thinnest. I’d stare down the mirror until I found a reflection that felt safe…enough.

Throughout the hours of dance class each week, I studied my body against the reflection of the other girls and found only my imperfections.

Before I could make it safely into junior high, the list of accusations grew longer as I listened to the words of my peers mocking more than my gut…going after features I couldn’t hide no matter how hard I tried.

Hiding. Disguising. Distracting. That’s how I’ve lived when it comes to my appearance…even to this day. Even as a mom and mentor to teenage girls. I’m tired of hiding myself while encouraging the generation of girls I adore to live bright and beautiful in the skin their in.

So I decided it was time to wage war.

“Mom, why do you have all these papers taped to the mirrors. I can’t check my hair before I walk out the door.”

“Oh, well, I’m doing this thing with this author Jennifer Dukes Lee. She’s given up mirrors for Lent so she can remind herself of what God says about her.”

“Well, can we uncover this mirror, because it makes it really hard to see?”

To be honest, I was a little miffed at their reaction. Don’t they know I need help in this war I’m fighting? But then I realized that my teenage daughters don’t understand my battle because it’s not their battle. When they look in the mirror, they only see a reflection of themselves.

They see preapproved, while I still feel unapproved.

Their use of the kitchen mirror is purely practical, as they run a brush through their hair before heading out the door — teenage darlings not messing with God’s design as they live beautiful in their own skin. By God’s grace, their reflection is a fact and not a matter of worth because they’ve been spared the criticisms I endured. They’ve been affirmed in their outer beauty, and even more so on what dwells within their soul. That’s not been my story, but God’s not done writing mine either — especially with a dramatic little twist.

See, I have to confess that while I was passionate about covering all the downstairs mirrors because I wanted to make a statement that my family could see, I could never bring myself to cover the full-length mirror in my bedroom. Hmm. Do you see a problem with that?!

I’ll cover it tomorrow…

I made excuses and came up with compromises.

I’ll leave it uncovered and only check once before I leave the room.

I’ll stop stealing glances in department store mirrors.

I’ll not worry if my had-four-children-muffin-top is spilling over…too much.

I think we could easily say, “Houston, we have a problem here.” And that problem has “idol” stamped all over it. If idolatry is when we worship something or someone more than God, then I’m guilty. I use my mirror to protect myself, making sure everything is in perfect place so that I won’t be criticized or made fun of by others. But isn’t God suppose to be my protector? Shouldn’t I be seeking the approval of God and not man? Wouldn’t it be better to go to God for His feedback instead of listening to the lies woven into my reflection?

My mirrors, and their words, have more influence on my thinking than God and His truth…and that makes it my idol.

Until now.

That mirror I refused to cover, well, it’s no more, and that wasn’t my choice. As I leaned over to stuff the dirty clothes into the laundry basket, the lid barely bumped the bottom of the mirror. CRASH!

The wire snapped from the back of the frame and the mirror smashed into pieces as it hit the floor. I know — crazy. I didn’t know if I should laugh or cry.

I had no choice but to turn to the Lord…

God, are you trying to tell me I have a bigger issue with this idolatry of self-image than I’d like to admit?

In the silence, I’m pretty sure God said yes.

Screen Shot 2014-03-14 at 4.02.57 PM Okay, Lord. I’ll leave that space empty and not replace that mirror until Easter. Speak to me in the absence of what I can see. God, show me what you want me to know beyond what a mirror shouts at me each day.

I want to live beautiful in the skin I’m in.

I want to know my worth according to Your Word and really live out what I preach.

And when that mirror goes back up, I want the reflection in the mirror to be Truth and no longer the place of my idol worship.

For your glory and in your power, God. And because of your grace.
Amen.

Elisa Pulliam Elisa is a trained biblical life coach, mentor, and speaker passionate about equipping women to experience authentic life change for the sake impacting the next generation. She is
the founder of More to Be and author of Impact My Life: Biblical Mentoring Simplified. Elisa considers her first calling as wife to Stephen and mother to her house-full of children. Her favorite days begin on the porch with the Lord and end on the beach with her family and friends. Connect with Elisa at elisapulliam.com and moretobe.com.

Photo 1: Norman Rockwell’s “Girl at the Mirror
Photo 2: By Elisa Pulliam, marking the spot of the fallen mirror

 

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  • This is beautiful, Elisa. I, like you, struggle with the playlist of lies on continual “repeat” in my mind when I look in a mirror. However, instead of obsessing about looking good, I went the other extreme of not really caring what I look like. (Can you tell I’m a rebel at heart?) Either way, I was obsessing about my image, and I often still do.

    Just recently God has been convicting gently whispering to me this wonderful truth: You are preapproved!” and showing me how it liberates me to actually care about the way I look, whether it’s a dab of lipstick or round-brushed hair. Because I don’t have to prove anything with my looks (or lack thereof). Jesus loves me the way I am, and that truth sets me free to step into the beauty God created me to be.

    What a wonderful time of reflection during Lent. Thank you, again, for sharing your heart.

    • Elisa Pulliam

      Thank you, Asheritah, for sharing your story with me. It is amazing how deeply we need to embrace this preapproved truth — whether facing the mirror or the world. May God continue to whisper truths to hearts and may they stick!

  • Oh, Elisa – I can so relate to this on many levels. I had an uncle, who for as long as I could remember, would say to me, “It looks like you’ve gained some weight there, Patricia,” every single time I saw him. I dreaded seeing him, but his wife was my favorite aunt. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I learned that my uncle had abused my aunt their entire marriage, and even though I knew that his words about my weight weren’t true, they stuck. And don’t you love how God will orchestrate events to achieve his purposes for freedom in our lives? I somehow imagine that he arranged for that mirror of yours to fall off the wall. Thank you so much for sharing this with us.

    • Elisa Pulliam

      It’s amazing how words can change our lives, even when they were never meant to harm us. Here’s to acknowledging them and seeking God for healing as these idols come crashing down.

  • Elisa, way to go. I love this so much–and the encouragement in how our own idols aren’t necessarily what are being passed down to our children, when we let God heal us. I love how your children know they are beautiful! Oh, that’s so huge, so awesome. Thank you for being willing to show the heartache and hard work in the laying ourselves down—and shining light on the greater payoff in the end. You invite me into deeper freedom, friend. Thank you.

    • Elisa Pulliam

      Oh my dear friend! Your words are sweetness to my tender soul, and I am rejoicing at knowing that God is using us in each others lives to enter into deeper freedom. I’m glad to go there with you, Jennifer!

  • Holly Solomon Barrett

    Elisa, love this post! When I saw Jennifer’s post on FB, I knew that mirror had come crashing down. Isn’t it just like God to point out the places where we are trying to fudge just a little bit? I love this quote: “I want to live beautiful in the skin I’m in.” Because I want to live beautiful there too. Thanks for the encouragement to do so!

    • Elisa Pulliam

      Thank you so much Holly! It’s an unexpected #FOCUS52 moment, wouldn’t you say! Yes, let’s live beautiful in the skin we’re in together. So much more to learn and grow together in this God-aware life!

  • ark3377@aol.com

    Lisa, I can’t begin to express how much your story I identify with. I am blessed, encouraged and challenged to join with you in removing the mirrors till Easter thank you xo

    • Elisa Pulliam

      Oh Linda, I’m so blessed to hear you’re doing this too. Hold me accountable, friend!

      • ark3377@aol.com

        Yes I will and please do the same…silly question, so does that mean no makeup for a month or do we put it on without a mirror? 🙂 At my job I stand in front of a mirror lol that should be interesting!

  • Alyssa Santos

    I love how God can take things into his own hands and crush the idols when we are willing but too weak. I love this story – thank you!!

    • Elisa Pulliam

      Ah yes, Alyssa! That says it perfectly! He crushed my idol when I was too weak to get to that reality on my own!

  • HisFireFly

    Oh how He loves us, and does what He knows is best for each of us!
    Thank you for sharing His mysterious ways.

    • Elisa Pulliam

      You’re so very welcome! It took a nudge and leap of faith, but I’m glad I did!

  • Ohh, I love this so much. broken mirrors coming crashing down in my soul. YES.

    • Elisa Pulliam

      We need to find someone to right a song with those lyrics, Rachel. Broken mirrors coming crashing down in my soul! Bring in on Lord, Bring it on!

  • You are even more beautiful by sharing your struggle with us. Most women fight with the image in the mirror hoping it will tell them they are beautiful.

    And this, “I want to know my worth according to Your Word and really live out what I preach.” Amen sister, Amen!

    • Elisa Pulliam

      Thank you, Diane, for your sweet words of encouragement. They mean so much to me, knowing your heart is for the Lord and for His women to live beautiful and bold in the covering of the Word.

  • Arabah Joy

    Hi Elisa! I love your post and how you connected with this heart issue in so many of us. I have not owned a full length mirror for years, because I’ve hated what I see there. I never look in a mirror, even when brushing my teeth or washing my hands. I mean never! And that is not good either. For the past month or so, as a result of my study of what it means to be In Christ, I’ve forced myself to look in the mirror every day and speak truth to myself… that by GOD’S doing I am in Christ and I am complete in Him. That I am enriched and accepted and washed and cleansed and set apart. The mirror has become a very powerful tool for my growth and healing of wounded places. I love, love, love the mirror post and how the mirror can be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on how we use it. Praying for you and us all as sisters today as I sign off here…

    • Elisa Pulliam

      Arabah Joy, I am so blessed to bump into you here. And I totally appreciate your perspective that we can go to the other extreme on not using a mirror at all. Years ago, when God first brought me onto the reDefining Beauty journey, He did so through a young teen girl and my mirror above my sink that night. I began to see in my eyes and face the beauty of the Lord within me, more than what an aging woman focuses on. Now, I think it must be part 2 — time to look at the rest of my body, where my heart dwells, for more transformation. I’ll be thinking of you as I journey on this road, praying for God to show us more of Himself in the ways we each need to receive Him.

      • Arabah Joy

        Yes, part 2 please! And I’m getting me a mirror this month 🙂

  • Jennifer Bush Dorhauer

    Our God is amazing how He works. And when we’re slow to listen, He is drastic in the measures He takes! Love this.

    • Elisa Pulliam

      That fallen mirror certainly seemed drastic to me. But I am glad He’s willing to do that to show me the truth, Jennifer!

  • MMmmmm, definitely feeling this post. From my late teens onward, I have had a love/hate relationship with mirrors. Same with the scales. As I have learned to allow the Lord to shape my view of who I am in Him, I have been less attached to either of those idol-makers. Still work to do, but oh, how far I have come because of Jesus.

    • Elisa Pulliam

      Leah, so good to see you here. Yes, we are works in progress. Thank you for being one of those women whose encouraged me to embrace the process, too!

  • Nancy Ruegg

    Oh, Lord, I pray along with Elisa: God, show me what you want me to know beyond what a mirror shouts at me each day. Thank you for her honesty to face the truth: Outward appearances consume too much of our time and concern. So many of us are prone to base our self-worth on immaterial physical beauty, defined by made-up, airbrushed, starving models and celebrities!! Forgive me, Father, for allowing my spirit to be impacted by worldly standards. Thank you for Elisa, Jennifer, and others who bring us back to YOUR reality.

    • Elisa Pulliam

      Amen and amen, Nancy. Thank you for your humble words and thoughtful petition before the Lord on our behalf!

  • Pingback: Still Learning to Live Beautiful in the Skin I'm In | More to BeMore to Be()

  • Sherry

    Elisa, thank you for sharing your personal and painful struggle. I was especially impacted by your statement: “My mirrors, and their words, have more influence on my thinking than God and His truth…and that makes it my idol.” I allow others words and reactions to me influence me more than God’s truth. I am convicted, but encouraged in reading through your struggles and faith to overcome.

  • amy

    This article meant a lot to me today. I’ve long had body image/ hatred issues- from a childhood illness that followedme into my teens, finding out that I will never bear achild, and currently suffering an injury that keeps me on the couch, with limited mobility. This article is an important reminder that my body (and its capabilities) do not define me. Thank you for the reminder that God sees me as so much more!

  • Norman Rockwell’s picture drew me in as I love all of his drawings but that one is special for a variety of reasons. Elisa, you hit my button and have made me ready to rethink and ponder: When I was an adolescent, my mother said to me, “You better be careful with your eating habits or you will look like your Grandmother R someday.” Well, Grandmother R had died several years before I was even born so I did not know this woman. A year or two later, I found a picture of Grandmother R and realized what Mom meant by her statement. Grandmother R was quite overweight. From that moment on, I lived with that picture in my head and just knew that I would become her. And diets, diet drinks, mirror-looking and fear of rejection, disapproval, and all that became my world. I looked for Jennifer’s new book last week at B/N but I was a few days too early. Looks like I better get it and also pray with my God for His Truth in my walk rather than this idolatry I carry around. Thanks for your wisdom.
    Caring through Christ, ~ linda

  • Wanda

    Elisa…WOW! this post has ‘ME’ written all over it! I learned so much in what you shared! Thank you for helping me realize I’ve given too much time and effort to something I already am….beautiful in God’s eyes.

  • Pingback: March Reflections . . . #FOCUS52 Link Up « Elisa Pulliam: Equipping Women for Today()

Sometimes you have to say “no” to the good, in order to save room for the great.