I wonder if it’s wise to rely on mirrors.
They’re everywhere, aren’t they? Giant strips of them in public bathrooms; magnifying discs in beauty shops that show every pore; ones on cabinets and walls in our own bathrooms – easily accessible for five, six, twenty-three checks on our appearance per day.
There’s value to knowing your face, and I’m definitely not advocating going ungroomed to interviews, important social events, dates, yada yada. But check too frequently in the mirror, and you train yourself to allow value of appearance to outweigh value of person.
And what happens when appearance fails you?
Last month I completed a healing process for an illness that couldn’t be concealed – right smack on my face. (You can read more about it here.) I was asked if I had skin cancer; I was accosted with “miracle” treatments from the well-meaning; I was told it looked like I’d been in a fight. Make-up couldn’t conceal it and often made it worse.
For half a year I didn’t look in a mirror if I didn’t have to. You can’t preen over inflammation or admire painful cysts. Even now, as the scars heal, I see my reflection and wonder if there are ways my face will never look the same. And is that okay? Could I come to accept these marks as “the new me”?
Maybe a new me isn’t such a bad thing.
In Christ, I’m already a new creation; whatever happens from here is strictly superficial. Sure, the rough patches and residual scars may suck, but my worth won’t be found in nicks and pinched skin. No person’s worth can be so easily wrecked.
See, we never really know what we look like, I think – no matter how many times we scrutinize our reflection. We can’t see our genuine laughter, or the way we hug a friend, or our passion when we talk about what’s important to us. These are where true beauty radiates – in the impromptu moments where you don’t have a chance to fret over appearance.
Even the Man worthiest of admiration wasn’t appealing by human-imposed physical standards. “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.” (Isaiah 53:2) Yet by his life and death he demonstrated not only his great worth as a sacrifice, but how overwhelmingly he values us in return.
“Old me” or “new me”, Christ has declared my value is never bankrupt. (What a timely reminder so close to Resurrection Sunday.)
Troubles won’t end just because I’m past this hurdle. I may even have to leap it again down the road. But I notice now, when I check my reflection, my scars disappear when I smile. A testament to joy in the face of pain?