What I Learned After 40 Days Without Mirrors

April 21, 2014 | 52 comments

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:

Loved.
Beautiful.
His.

Related: 

“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.

by | April 21, 2014 | 52 comments

52 Comments

  1. Kris Camealy

    Beautiful words and reflections, Jennifer. You inspire and challenge me, my friend. Love you.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Thanks, Kris. It was a fun journey. I was so surprised by how much I actually ENJOYED it.

      Reply
  2. ro elliott

    I love the way you soaked in truth everyday…letting it saturate your being … For me…sometimes after a season of such focus…amazing grace to walk a different path… When it ends… I can feel a bit lost…kind of like the disciples …even after they saw Jesus they still did not have their footing… I think they felt…where do We go from here??? Praying for you as you transition into a new and glorious space!!!

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      ro … you said what I felt. I did feel a bit lost, and it’s not that God isn’t whispering “preapproved” over me in other ways. But it was such a tender, sweet time. I wasn’t ready for it to end.

      Reply
  3. Constance Ann Morrison

    Even if it meant having the mirrors covered until next Easter, it would be worthwhile to have the truth seared on our hearts: that we’re loved, that we’re valuable, that we’re pre-approved. Thanks for sharing your journey with us, Jennifer.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      It was so, so, so worth it. And honestly? It wasn’t that hard. I seriously entertained the thought of keeping the mirrors covered through summer. But alas, I was out-voted by the family. 🙂

      Reply
  4. Susan

    Coming off a “fast” such as this can be almost frightening. My prayers are with you sister. We are for eternity: PREAPPROVED!

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Amen! Also, Susan … this:

      “Being PreApproved is good for you.” (See image). 🙂

      Reply
  5. Helen Murray

    Oh yes. I want to see myself through His filter, not mine. Thank you, Jennifer. You’re an inspiration.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Thanks for your kind words, Helen. God bless you this Eastertide!

      Reply
  6. Sarah

    Thanks for sharing your heart. It gets me teary every time I read about being pre-approved. I think I probably do need to read this book. blessings.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Me, too, Sarah. Me too. I pray that I never get tired of hearing how I’m preapproved. And just think … every time you see one of those credit card offers in your mailbox, or when ever you sign a credit card receipt and the digital screen tells you that you are “approved,” that’s another little reminder of what God says about you. See? Even paying bills can be fun! 🙂

      Reply
  7. Sharon

    I just love this, Jennifer. Thank you for inspiring all of us to let go of the lies and believe Truth.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Thanks so much, Sharon! Did you have a good Easter?

      Reply
  8. Jamie H

    Amazing – this seems like a fast almost every women should try once in their lives. How on earth did you fix your hair or do your makeup? I love it! That’s a freedom we all want.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Jamie, I agree. It was the best fast EVER. Honestly, I thought it would be much more difficult — especially considering the fact that I had numerous speaking engagements during those 40 days.

      Hair was easy. I really just wore it pretty flat. It wasn’t anything special, but looked orderly enough. 🙂 … And makeup? Well. I’ve had about 20 years’ practice. I skipped the eye pencils, though. That seemed dangerous. 🙂

      My favorite part was reading the words while I got ready. Really letting those truths sink in. I’d set my phone nearby, and often play one song over and over: “Yours will be … the only name that matters to me…” by Big Daddy Weave. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WnDTDLOM0rY

      Reply
  9. pastordt

    Love this. Love you. Love that Anna girl I’ve never met, but believe to be one of the sweetest spirits on the earth.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Yeah. Anna is a very, very sweet spirit. Thank you for saying so, Diana.

      Reply
  10. Bruce Barone

    Beautiful!

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Hey, thanks Bruce! I really appreciate your comment.

      Reply
  11. Cheryl Smith

    Loved this post! “Fewer mirrors, more Messiah.” YES….the cry of my heart!

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Thank you, Cheryl. So glad you stopped by. xo

      Reply
  12. Jen Ferguson

    Amen, amen, amen. My heart rejoices with you!

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Thanks, Jen! Alleluia .. My heart rejoices too. xo

      Reply
  13. lindalouise

    Yes. So proud of you for leading the way Jennifer.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Thanks, Linda! Did you have a nice Easter with family?

      Reply
      • lindalouise

        It was lovely Jennifer. My sweet Mom kept telling me over and over what a good job I did with the dinner. I felt like I was about 21 again. So dear.

        Reply
        • dukeslee

          Oh that is so sweet, Linda. I’m glad you had a great Easter. We did, too. Sadly, we had a family member’s funeral on Saturday afternoon, but we were all thanking God for the Hope that rises on Easter morning. Christ is Risen. He is Risen indeed.

          Reply
  14. Lynn Mosher

    Hallelujah! I’m able to leave a comment! I haven’t been able to in eons! And what a great post for a comment. Jennifer, mirror or not, you are beautiful! Your soul is so precious. I know the Lord has blessed you through your absence from your reflection. And may He continue to do so. You always bless me with the overflow of your heart. 😀

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Oh yay! So glad you can post again. Thank you for your kind words. You bless me, too, Lynn. xo

      Reply
  15. Tina Howard

    Ohhh, I’ve been waiting for this post. And it was so thought-provoking and lovely. Thanks for being you, and sharing you with all of us. Love you, friend.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Love you, too, Tina. xo

      Reply
  16. Becky Daye

    Thank you for your faithfulness in writing this book, in sharing this important message, of inviting us into your bathroom! 🙂 I read your book during Lent and posted my review today. And while the stars DON’T matter, I hope you are blessed by my 5. Because while you might not crave approval, may you enjoy affirmation! (See? Your words have had an impact!!!)

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Becky!!! I love this. Your review made my heart so happy, and for the reasons you state here. We can enjoy affirmation, without CRAVING it. You definitely DID read the book. 🙂 … Grateful that you’ve been on the journey with us. I hope you had a great Easter!

      Reply
      • Becky Daye

        Ah, I’m so glad I could encourage you. I am quite sure it has been an emotional time for you, but I for one am very thankful for your words. Seriously- wish we could go out for coffee!! 🙂

        Reply
        • dukeslee

          Oh girl. I would love that. And then, afterward, we could see if we could successfully halter a bucket calf. 🙂

          Reply
          • Becky Daye

            Ha! Well, my best friend lived on a dairy farm, so I am quite comfortable around cows. 🙂

  17. Angie Ryg

    “And I knew it for sure, that God has burned every truth into my heart.”

    Oh, I pray that God will continue to burn these truths into my heart. You have been a blessing and an encouragement to me and to many as you seek to reflect His grace! XOXO

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Thanks, Angie! I pray the same, for each of us. I ended up leaving quite a few of the printables on mirrors throughout the house. I don’t want to forget what God has taught me, and what He is continuing to teach me. Hope you had a great Easter!

      Reply
  18. Paula Gamble

    This totally made me cry. I thought of you yesterday and wondered how you were. This is a beautiful testimony, Jennifer. Thank you for sharing the liberating Truth of God’s reckless, unconditional love and acceptance for us! I love you, friend.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Thanks, Paula. I love you, too. Remember that in your heart, sweet friend … change your words, to change your heart. xo

      Reply
      • Paula Gamble

        Thank you, Jennifer! I know God is helping me to hear His Voice and He speaks Truth! I just have to listen especially when I can’t feel His Presence and doubt His love. I’m thankful He breaks through to me every time and He always will!

        Reply
  19. Jillie

    Having grown up in an environment where I was never enough of anything, I cherish your words and I find great hope. Hope that one day I will truly believe and know that I am enough just the way I am, for just who I am. May He burn His Truth deep into my mind and heart, and set me free from me.
    I love your video on YouTube!

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      I hope that one day you will believe it, too, Jillie. You’re a lovely person, with a beautiful spirit. And you really are enough, just as you are.

      Reply
  20. tle17523

    Very inspirational words of truth revealing, it is not our mirrored reflection but our heart that is faith, discipleship, and our guide through this earthly journey to the Lord/ as the Lord!
    Thank you.
    Sincerely,
    Traci Ellis

    Reply
  21. Melody

    Oh I just love this!!! So neat that your daughter wanted to do it as well. She’ll remember that forever I’m sure.

    Reply
  22. Shelly Miller

    You are such a beautiful soul Jennifer, thankful for your friendship and the way your life inspires my journey.

    Reply
  23. Nancy Ruegg

    Your sweet spirit, honesty, and humility are showing me the way to self-forgetfulness. Thank you, Jennifer.

    Reply
  24. June

    Praying that you don’t ever stop believing the writing on the wall. Thank you for sharing this journey with us, Jennifer.

    Reply
  25. Katie Kump

    I love this so much, Jennifer. I’ve lost count of all the times I’ve shared your story with my friends over the Lenten season. Thank you for forging ahead against all the measures that are not the cross. It is finished–the ultimate preapproval. Much love to you.

    Reply
  26. LeQuita NewandImproved Jones

    Wow I don’t even know you but the words God gave to share was like you was reading what o feel. I’m truly amazed how your fast went. Even thinking of doing it for myself. I been creating a tool box cause I’m in recovery and o beat myself like I was by others and trying to gain strength and positive in my life to be s overcomer. Thanks so much for sharing. Thank God for you! Allow God to keep using you!!!!

    Reply

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