Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Mirror, Mirror...

Mirror, Mirror

The looking glass of fairy tales was an enchanted item that had the power to speak & often show things that were not there. The mirror belonging to the evil queen sung the praises of the forever fairest Snow White, & in some versions gave away her whereabouts in conjuring an image of her hiding out in the seven dwarves’ cozy cottage. Although today we are about as far removed from fairy tales as can be, there is an eerie similarity betwixt the looking glasses of story & the mirrors of the present. However, our stories rarely see the phrasing ‘Happily Ever After’…

Once upon a time there was a girl with a glowing smile, who would twirl her frilly skirts in abandon, & grin at every clicking camera with an ever-obliging “cheese!”  As time went on, however, enemies slowly invaded her castle. Ever so slowly they came in such a way that she welcomed the foe as friend, not knowing the danger that awaited her… Her princess stories were replaced with teen magazines, her fancy whirly dresses all but disappeared, she hid from any & every flashing camera, & her smile – when she did smile – was often put upon her face like a masquerade mask. The invaders: the magazines, billboard ads, peers, TV, Internet … had told the girl her beauty was lacking & it didn’t fit the mold. For a time she had tried to make herself fit the world’s definition of all the things she wasn’t; she pulled, pushed, & all but poured herself into their mold of beautiful, but to no avail – she couldn’t fit.

She wondered what lad would want her. “In a sea of beautiful mermaids who would pick an oyster?” she’d ponder. Her mirror spoke & whispered lies as she’d examine her face from every angle… “Well, you’re not what I’d call lovely. Look at that there, it’s certainly not the right size. You’ve got circles under your eyes again. Couldn’t sleep, huh? Well, if anyone needed a beauty rest it’s you!” Then, slowly the mirror began to show the girl things that weren’t there at all… extra pounds magically appeared, dots no bigger than a pinpoint became quarter-sized blemishes, unique & beautiful qualities became hideous curses. It became a part of the girl – her knowledge that she wasn’t, nor ever would be, beautiful. It changed & damaged her.

Walking down the street she’d compare herself with her passersby, an unhealthy habit that had emerged from all this. One such day after comparing herself with one too many females that she deemed “better” than herself, the girl, near tears, sat down on a park bench. A graying elderly lady with a glowing smile came & sat beside her. Propping her chin on the end of her cane for a moment, she gave a sidelong glance at her seatmate. By this time two tears had already slid down the girl’s cheek. “Oh, now don’t cry, lass. It can’t be that bad. Why when you cry it’s hard to see your beautiful face. See now,” she pulled a handkerchief from out of a pocketbook, “it’s all scrunched up like. Dry your eyes & you’ll be a lovely girl once more.” The girl stared at the woman. “You must be mistaken. Tears or not, I am not nor ever will be beautiful,” the girl said, taking the handkerchief from the woman’s wrinkled hand. The woman didn’t miss a beat, “That’s where you, my dear girl, are horribly wrong. You are, indeed, beautiful. You are God’s handiwork after all.” “I do not feel lovely,” the girl whispered. “Oh my dear, well, if this cane here doesn’t feel it’s a cane, does that change its appearance or what it is? You are still beautiful & God’s creation whether you ever realize it or not. Though, of course, it’s much nicer to realize it now…before you become old like me,” the woman winked & rose gingerly on her cane. “Don’t forget now. Learn it now or you’ll battle with it all your life. I ought to know,” she flashed another glowing smile & hobbled away.

The girl sat stock-still on the bench. Could she be beautiful? It was true God had made her, but did He make her beautiful? She got up & wandered over to a small pond to seek her reflection in its surface. The rippling glass showed her a girl with lovely eyes &… her lips curved up… a glowing smile. In that moment she saw a hint of the beauty that had been lost for so long. It would not be easy to be sure, but it was time she regained her throne & saw herself, not through a mirror, but through the eyes of her Father, the King.

I, too, have been the girl that hides her face whenever a camera is present. I have wrestled with what the world says is beautiful & my own face in the mirror. I have insecurities & sometimes wonder if there’s a guy out there who would call me not “cute” or “sweet,” but “beautiful.” And, yes, I have fallen into the compare snare that threatens to drag me down into hopeless forever-un-satisfaction with myself. So, you see, I was writing to me as much as to you. To break the curse of the looking glass & see ourselves through God’s eyes is the way to discovering our beauty & worth. It is not easy… for starters, we’ve got to stop comparing. If we could compliment & not compare, & on tough days just stare straight ahead like old-timey horses that had those side blinder things on, till we’ve broken the cycle, our self esteem would be buoyed, don’t ya think? We need to stop wondering what others think of us & our appearance & solely strive to please our heavenly Father. We’ve got to pray & be honest with our King {He knows it all anyway}. We need to rework our definition of beauty through His Truth, & toss out the world’s dictionary. There’s got to be an end of the negative self-talk & a beginning of the truth: “The world lies. You are beautiful just as you are. You are, indeed, lovely.” We need to remember there are pearls hidden in oysters & beauty hidden behind our possessed mirrors that speak such wicked lies. No, it won’t be easy, but the glowing smile can return & the looking glass’ curse can be broken through His strength. Remember, dear sister & fellow-princess, you are beautiful – own it humbly in your heart.

I have easily typed up many “we” statements that look good on paper, but are hard to act out daily {notice I didn’t say impossible}. Let’s dig deep & truly try to win this fight! Starting small sounds like a good plan in this battle that has been raging since we first saw an image marked “beautiful” that looked nothing like us. Pick a place to start & begin. Imperfectly moving forward is still forward {even if you slide back a time or to; just keep going}. I really struggle with comparing, so I’m going to give an inward {& sometimes outward} compliment for every time I’m tempted to compare. 

I’ve lived in my apartment for about three years & have never gone to my complex’s swimming pool alone – in fact, I’ve only ever gone a handful of times & always with someone & always with me hopelessly trying to cover myself with a towel. I’m going to try to go alone – even though I’m scared silly over the thought. I’ll let you know how that goes… hopefully.

Do you struggle with body image, too? What helps you with your battle?

"The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart."
-1 Samuel 16:7 NIV

"Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles & the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes.  Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle & quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight."
-1 Peter 3:3-4 NIV

Love ya, you beautiful thing, you!

{Imperfectly} Happily Ever After,

1 comment:

  1. Oh, my. I have tears in my eyes. I needed to read this today.

    I definitely struggle with my image. I feel very plain most days, compared to the other girls around me. When I look in the mirror, I often pick apart my appearance. One thing that I'm self-conscious of is that I have braces and hearing aids. From 6th grade to 9th grade (when I moved to a new school) I was so self-conscious of my hearing aids that I never wore my hair up in a pony tail. I always made sure that my hair completely covered my ears. I was literally terrified that kids would tease me and no one would want to be my friend.

    Fortunately, during high school I was blessed with some amazing Christian friends who encouraged me with God's truth. They reminded me that I am made in the image of God. I now wear my hair up with confidence, realizing that what's inside is much more important. Yes, I've overheard a few rude people whisper and point to my hearing aids, but it's also been a great opportunity to reach out to others. Since then, I've met several other young people who wear hearing aids or have other "special needs". We've been able to encourage each other and remind each other of God's truth and love for us.

    I'm still not 100% comfortable with my appearance and I struggle with it on a daily basis. To answer your question of what helps me, I would say just smiling at others and being friendly. This past year I focused on smiling and making friends with a diverse group of people at my school (the outcasts AND the popular kids...because I believe there are people hurting in both groups). I didn't realize how much of a difference my actions had made until I was voted prom queen this spring. I was shocked, to say the least. I immediately knew it was not because I'm "gorgeous" in society's sense of the word, but because God has transformed my life and given me a deep love for every student in my school. I may never feel completely beautiful on the outside, but I know that what's inside is sooo much more important.

    To close this very long post, I'm going to say this. Bess, you are seriously one of the most beautiful people I know. I have never even seen your face before, but your posts and your sweet comments show me that you have an incredible heart. I wish I could meet you in person and tell you how much of a difference your words have made in my life.

    You are amazing! <3


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