The first that came to my awareness was during the 8-week course I recently completed, Coming Home to the Body (from Abbey of the Arts), which was all about getting out of my head and to start listening and trusting my body. One of the exercises involved standing in front of a full length mirror naked. (In the privacy of my home, thanks.)
The second came about at the start of Lent when Jennifer Dukes Lee gave up mirrors for Lent. You can read all her reasons at her blog, but this spun out of her writing her just released book Love Idols. Her appearance was an idol and she's giving it up for Lent in order to see herself as a reflection of God.
Having just done the course on dwelling in my body, I baulked at this denial of self. (I know, I'm of the monastic bent, but self-denial isn't really my bag.)
But maybe this stemmed from my lack of understanding. I look in the mirror to see if I absolutely must floss my teeth (yeah yeah I know), to see if the colors of my outfit actually work, and to comb my hair. I don't wear makeup so there is really no lingering in the mirror.
I kept reading posts, one by Elisa Pulliam about taking on the "no mirrors" challenge and giving up that one last mirror, another by Claudia about looking in the mirror at this strange older person who is her.
And I started thinking about what I'm doing when I look in the mirror, and maybe that's all it takes. That nudge to think about what it is I'm doing, why I am doing it and who I am doing it for. Being intentional.
The longest I spend in front of the mirror, every day, is combing my hair. It's naturally curly so it should just be scrunch and go. But it is thinning, especially along my part and so the hair is combed this way and that and forward ... and well, let's just say that opening scene with Christian Bale in American Hustle really resonated with me.
I remember wanting to shave my head to be in solidarity with a gal whose rare cancer had come back again. But I didn't. I was afraid. What if it didn't grow back? (How stupid is that?)
I miss her.
My one vanity and if I'm honest it isn't my only one. So, Jennifer Dukes Lee, I understand now.
This is the body that God knit and formed in the womb. To deny it exists, is to deny God's work.
At my church's quiet day, there was an exercise where we were asked to believe we are how God created us:
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. -- Philippians 4:8 (NIV)We were asked to go look at one of the many mirrors that were on and around the altar, and to look, really look at ourselves even when it became uncomfortable.
And on each mirror was a word:
Could we hold the word on the mirror and our own reflection and trust ... and believe ... that God believes, no, God knows, that we are:
To deny my body is to deny God. And to fret over wrinkles, bald spots, hair growing where it shouldn't, curves too great, skinny too straight, that also is to deny God.
So let's stop denying. Let's start accepting, start loving. That this is me and I am loved by God. I am whole in God's eyes.