Turns out, there’s something harder than covering all your mirrors for Lent:
It’s uncovering them on Easter morning.
Anna bounded into the bathroom, with her hair cascading down past her shoulders. She had pinned a flower in her hair. Her eyes were Easter-sunrise-bright.
She did a barefoot-ballerina twirl in the doorway. “Mom! Look!” Her skirt and almond-brown hair spun with her. “I already took the papers down off my mirrors, and I got ready, and I really do look so different. And my hair is wa-aaaay longer!”
Her cheeks were pinked, with all that life pulsing through, and I could see with my eyes what her heart knew for sure: She was beautiful.
She jabbed a finger at my mirrors. “Um … mom? Did you forget?”
“No, babe. I didn’t forget. I’m just not ready yet.”
I was standing in front of the covered bathroom mirror, pulling a brush through my thick mane. I wasn’t looking at myself, even though our Mirror Fast had officially ended.
I hadn’t looked in a mirror since March 5, the day my pastor smeared an ashen cross on my forehead. I gave up mirrors for Lent because I was tired.
I was tired of the self-degradation that we engage in as women. We tell ourselves that we’re not enough—or let our bathroom scales tell us that we’re too much. I was tired of how we, as women, often see ourselves and each other as a series of parts and “thigh gaps,” or lack thereof. I was tired of the photoshopping and the airbrushing, and yet, I knew I was guilty. (I deftly wield Instagram’s Amaro filter to magically take five years off my face.)
I was tired of being a hypocrite in front of my daughters. At ages 12 and 9, they are now old enough to know when I’m talking a good game and when I’m actually living what I believe. Children are mighty fine accountability partners. They are also mirrors themselves, reflecting what they see in their parents.
But this wasn’t just about the mirrors reflecting my face. It was about all the mirrors and scorecards and tally sheets of this world — trying to tell us what we’re worth.
I wanted fewer mirrors, more Messiah.
This mirror-free Lent had to do with love idols — all those places in our hearts where we want the approval of people. This was about seeing myself through God’s eyes — not people’s.
My Love Idol has gone far deeper than my physical reflection. 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’ve 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.
My heart needed a Gospel-saturated, self-forgetful Lent. And, I believe, the Gospel is the only fair way to see who we really are. Because we can be really poor judges of ourselves.
So, since March 5, every time I looked in the mirror, I read words reminding me what God says about me. The words told me I am chosen, cherished, valuable, beautiful, treasured and preapproved by God.
I’ve spent hours in front of those words. And let me tell you this:
When you change your words, you change your heart.
Instead of believing, “I have something to prove,”
I was reading, “I have nothing to prove. I am preapproved!”
Instead of believing I had to prove my value,
I was reading, “God proved me valuable.”
Before I spoke at retreats or attended book signings, I saw my worth spelled out in bold letters before my very eyes. I knew, that I knew, that I knew, that it really is all about Jesus.
Instead of believing that my worth hinged on my performances at places like Amazon.com — where one’s work is subjected to a five-star rating system and sales ranking — I was reading, “God says I’m already chosen.” God is bigger than Amazon, and the Star of David shines brighter than the stars of Amazon. That means that He’s bigger than any criticism, and He’s also bigger than any praise.
I changed my words, and they changed my heart. But on Easter morning, I wasn’t ready to see myself. Not because I feared my reflection. But I wasn’t ready to stop reading the handwriting on the wall.
So I got ready for Easter service like this:
But this morning, I took those papers down, slowly, with Anna’s help. And I knew it for sure, that God has burned every truth into my heart.
And when I looked in the mirror this morning — crazy hair tucked under a new hat from my bestie down the road — I knew it more than I ever have before. That I am this:
“You are PreApproved” at @incourage.me.
“What I Saw When I Gave Up Mirrors for Lent” at Christianity Today’s Her.meneutics.
“10 Signs You Might Have a Need for Approval” at Relevant Magazine.
Preapproved Video on YouTube.