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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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Wednesday 5th March 2014

Why I Gave Up My Own Reflection for Lent

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, but every groove represents a moment that 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.

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.

I only want to see more of Christ. 

So long, self. We’ll see you Easter morning, when my Hope rises with the sun. 

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 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 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 #preapproved.

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 into the world.

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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 preapproved, loved, cherished, chosen. 

His.

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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.

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. Ophthamologist: I hereby pledge to give up eye pencils. #ocularhealth 🙂

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.

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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.

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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.

Forgetting Myself

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 preapproved 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

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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? 

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Are you giving up a Love Idol for Lent?

Click here to join the Love Idol movement on Facebook.

Find our printables here, and then tell us on your blogs, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter how you’re evicting your Love Idols this Lent. Use the hashtags #love idol and #preapproved so we can find you! Be sure to tag me on Instagram @dukeslee! I’d love to regram you, in the places where you’re declaring yourself #preapproved!

This is the book that is inspiring a movement. Find out how you’re preapproved, on the pages of Love Idol.

“That endless, exhausting crusade for approval? Ends here. A brilliant writer, Jennifer Dukes Lee takes you to the foot of the Cross—and takes one stunning hammer to the foot of the Love Idol. Read this book—and walk free.” ~ Ann Voskamp

  • You are a brave soul, Jennifer! LOL! I love what you are doing. Truly, shouldn’t we be this focused on GOD and what HE looks like shining through us, instead of what we look like? I read a quote once that said “a woman should be so hidden in Christ that a man would have to go through Him to find her.” Oh, to be that woman! “Let me lose myself, and find it Lord, in Thee!” Thank you for the wonderful post. So glad I stopped by for the link-up! Love and blessings to you. 🙂

  • Jennifer, I hardly know what to write here. You are a.m.a.z.i.n.g. sister, just amazing. Oh, how you go ahead, grabbing our hands, urging us on to Jesus. I have been praying for a week now, about the love idol He is asking me to give up. I am praying for clarity, and I pray I find His words, when I write it down, tomorrow. Thank you. The image you show here, of Jesus, blows me away. So blessed by you.

  • Karrilee Aggett

    Girl… just when I think I can’t adore you more – you go all out on us and you show that you truly mean what you say… and that makes us all want to mean it too! Love you so and I am so proud of you and I can not wait to see all the shifting and sifting that He does in us over these next several weeks… let’s lay it all down and let God do this thing – in us and through us!

  • I read your title and thought “She has to be kidding! There is some kind of twist, right?” But, no! You are legit. Goodness gracious. You are a brave and trusting soul and I look forward to watching your journey ahead…the highs and lows.

  • Jennifer,

    I love you so much! I love this post. And all the other commenters said it so well. I think we are all amazing — in awe of God in you. I see Christ in you, our hope of glory. Just. Wow.

  • I just love this! I had taken a long break from social media and blogging and thought I would pop in to see what one of my favorite writers is up to. Shining! That’s what! 🙂 The book: I cannot wait to read it. Your lent challenge: I am cheering you on looking forward to reading about the journey.

  • Laura Risser Moss

    This is amazing. And brave. And breath-taking.
    I have been sitting with ‘preapproved’ since last week…it’s most definitely heady stuff.
    Thank you, Jennifer.

  • Alyssa Santos

    quietly praying for God’s good grace to fill your view, for the space to see what he has for you in this season that you seek him in greater earnestness. He is good, my Iowa friend, whatever we do or don’t do, but we see his goodness when we stop to really take him in. If your heart’s motive is to seek and find a clearer view of your savior, he will not disappoint you. He’ll be everywhere you look. 🙂

  • Jennifer this is beautiful. I am so certain that God will continue to transform you during this season. Your heart belongs to Him, and that is the biggest step. He holds you, he LOVES you, you are wildly pre-approved of by the King. Praying for you–LOVE YOU!!

  • Gosh I love you!

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  • Lisa Koster

    Wow! Sharing this post on FB, and now following!

  • Beth

    I just love you. Yes, love you SO much. Tears flowing because I’m so very grateful God created you. Praying for you. Praying for the many who are joining you on this journey. Much love to you, friend.

  • Jennifer, I love that we are not just made better, or improved, we are made anew. His Word hold this promise: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” Christ and His completed work on the cross is our foundation, our hope. There is not one thing I could give up to make me more worthy. I give Him my whole self knowing He has made me to be worthy in Him. He called me before the foundation of the world to be in Him. The destiny He has for me is to be conformed to the image of his Son. Not just a better me, but like my Messiah. Thank you for turning hearts to our Lord, knowing He loves us. We can stop trying and start trusting. God be with you on this journey. I’ll be feasting on the Gospel for the next forty. Pre-approved, yes!

  • Hi Jennifer,
    Wow – you’re a brave soul! It’s funny — I read your Facebook post last night and pondered. Since losing Mom, I decided to be a cheerleader and ease back into life. I had posted on my site for the first time in weeks and had plans to get back into blogging. Then my feed goes out this morning and was hacked with a Viagra ad — the second time in less than 6 months!

    I had suspected it, but now I know: my site is my love idol.

  • Amy

    Gorgeous. What an image, Jennifer. Deeply obedient and I can’t wait to see all the things God speaks to you through this journey. Honored to hold your hand through these days and this book.

  • KristinHillTaylor

    You’re inspiring so many with your words – I’m looking forward to holding the book version in my hands. I’ll be thinking of you as you’re on this mirror-free journey. I know God will do amazing things through your obedience.

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  • HisFireFly

    I’m in. All in. Will be adding my new post a bit later as I dive deeper.

  • I am incredibly grateful I got to hold you in a hug last month. There is something about seeing and touching and smiling at a person in real life. I would be motivated to walk this process with you regardless, but God grew something in those 30 minutes with you. I am so, so proud of you and I cannot wait to watch as God does His thing with you, with us, and with this book.

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  • You are so brave. This year I’ve decided to take on an additional practice instead of give something up. But, even in this there will be much sacrifice. I’m watching your journey in awe, my friend. Much love to you as you feel God’s tender gaze this season.

  • Jen

    I can’t tell you how much I’m enjoying this Love Idol movement! For over a year now, the Father has been stretching my ideas about His love and His grace. He’s systematically broken down every aspect of my identity, removing even my most basic abilities through physical infirmity, all to help me see that even when I have nothing to give, nothing to offer (and when DO we, really?), His love never fails.

  • June

    “Self-forgetfulness” thank you for naming what I’ve been aspiring to most of my Christian life. During the rare times I do achieve it, I feel the most at peace.

    What you’re doing with this Love Idol series is wonderful. I’ve seen several inspiring posts, Your tops the list. I’ve been praying about where/if I fit into this adventure. We’ll see.

    A warning: be careful with the mascara.

    God will bless your obedience – can’t wait to hear your story!

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  • Love it! 🙂

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  • Susan

    As I read this I was thinking how brave you are and how many times a day I glance into the little mirror I keep near my desk (I work from home). For the Lord to tell you to do this for 40 days means He is going to do a great.big.thing.in.you. All I can say is, “Watch out devil!!!”

  • You know I’m with you… all the way! You reflect Him now… and yes, you may need to veil your face by Easter morning. I love you to the moon and back.

    And I still get pimples at my age…

  • Megan Willome

    I love how you covered all your mirrors!

    My cousin did a three-month NOLES expedition and didn’t see herself in a mirror that entire time. It was a time in her life where appearance was very important to her. Something very important and very deep happened during that journey. She returned with seashells threaded into her very curly hair.

  • some years past I went on a similar journey…no make-up…until that point I never…never left the house without make-up…not even to the corner market…I did not know I was locked in a prison until He unlocked the door…I remember the first time I was going out without make-up…at the time my husband was an assistant coach at a major university…so it was game time…my kids where calling…mom…we are going to be late…I was in the bathroom…frozen…I felt like I was going out of the house naked…I am so thankful for the freedom that season brought…and I pray for sweet freedom and a deeper abiding through your journey.
    Did you ever hear the story of the lady who went a year without mirrors?…she got engaged during that time and never saw herself on her wedding day…I think she might have written a book.
    Much Blessings and grace to you this lenten season!!!
    And yes…I am with you…asking God to continue to set me free from idols …big and small…

    • Love your story – I’ve been through the same journey with make-up and it was in recovery that I stopped wearing it every day. I remember the lady your’re talking about: Kjerstin Gruys.

  • Man. This is Powerful. With a capital P. You can do this, Jennifer. God’s got it. And He’s got YOU.

  • soulstops

    Jennifer,
    thank you for modeling what you are writing and I am still working on clearing my nightstand so I can buy your book…and if it makes you feel any better, I’m older than you, and I still get pimples…blessings to you as you embark on your Lenten journey 🙂

    • Lisha Epperson

      Ok! what’s up with the midlife pimples? I get them and I’m 48!

  • Lisha Epperson

    This…is inspiring. I know you’ll take those pages down and see what I see, what I saw in the short time I spent with you. True beauty…perfect in every way and all because of Jesus! Bless you on this journey beauty!

  • Wow–this floors me, Jennifer. I’m humbled by this commitment you’re making to give up mirrors. And encouraged by your greater commitment to reflect the glory of Christ. Super excited to keep up with you in this journey. You’re amazing!

  • Jennifer, you are brave. I’m excited to hear about how God is going to meet you in your mirror-free lent. Hugs

  • Holly Solomon Barrett

    Love this Lenten journey, Jennifer. It’s given me so much to think about and has really driven my Lenten observance this year. Thank you so much!

  • Wow, this is powerful, and this is beautiful. Thank you for your example in showing us ways to let go of idols in our hearts.

  • Kim’s County Line

    Unfortunately, I can relate all too well to that striving for every “A” in life. I am anxious to read your book and also to hear more about this mirror-less journey. Blessings to you, Jennifer. Thanks for the opportunity to link up, too, to Tell His Story.

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  • My idol has always been food so I’m giving up breakfast. I never fast because I tell myself I can’t do it. I’m going to lean into Him and let him carry me through those hungry mornings.

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  • Ashley Tolins Larkin

    Woohoo! I love this and you, Jennifer, and I thank you as I so relate to this struggle for approval. You are brave and make much of Jesus…and I am so proud of you, fellow sister in Christ. What glory this must bring to God!

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  • I’ll be here cheering you on, wishing I was as brave.

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  • Whoa! It just got real in here. 🙂 I admire what you are doing, I’ve been thinking on what I could give up or take on for Lent and I’m getting panicky, cause I got nothin. More Him and Less Me, less TV, Internet, distractions in general would probably be a really good start and go from there. Good luck on your mirror-less journey!

    ps. How will you do your hair and makeup? 🙂

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  • SimplyDarlene

    Wouldn’t ya know it, I wrote a post today about my experience with Lent via childhood friends in school. I don’t have a very good taste in my mouth for the giving up of things and the “rules”… maybe that’s me holding onto stubbornness. Maybe that’s my heart being hard. Maybe that’s my mind being stuck.

    I just don’t know.

    May God shine His light as you lead this movement, miss JDL. You teach good things. And may He guide me along His path.

    Blessings.

  • Elizabeth Anne May

    How brave is this! I can scarcely give up sugar or nagging for Lent, but mirrors when your book releases? I love your boldness. I love your radical obedience. Praying for you!

  • Mary Gemmill

    I love your idea of giving up mirrors for Lent and all that entails- you may have hit the proverbial jackpot with this post ! The book would help me a lot as I have serious issues with self-hate when I look in the mirror 🙁

  • Elisa Pulliam

    Totally convicted…and going to the Lord in prayer now. Thank you for leading me there.

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  • Amber Cadenas

    Wow, Jennifer…this floors me. What a profound thing to give up, and your desire? To reflect Jesus more? Is there anything more beautiful? This challenges and spurs me on. I look forward to ‘seeing’ you at the end of this journey and along the way, cheering you on.

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  • Nancy Ruegg

    Just adding my admiration to that of other commenters–NOT that you’d want it! You are a stellar role model for us of how to reflect Jesus more. Thank you, Jennifer.

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