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.
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.
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.
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.
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