February 5, 2013

Mirror, Mirror

Did you do it?  Did you look at yourself in the mirror yesterday?  If you did, what did you see?  If not, why not?  (And if you have no idea what I'm talking about, click here and read all the way to the end).

I see myself in the mirror all the time, every day.  I see myself when I get up, when I get dressed, while I'm applying make-up or brushing my teeth or fixing my hair.  I can do a quick check every time I enter a bathroom or my bedroom.  I see myself in the door of the microwave and the rear-view mirror of my car.

Mirrors haven't always been at hand.  For a long time, they didn't exist.  Then they were a luxury.  There was a time when a person could only see her reflection in water.  Otherwise, I wouldn't know what my own face looked like.  Someone could describe my face to me, I guess.  Later, someone could paint my portrait.

Maybe I would realize that I must look like my other family members.  Surely people have always spoken of having your mother's eyes or your father's nose.

Now I don't have too go out of my way to look at myself.  I know what I look like.  I'm familiar to me.  I've seen some version of me every day that I can recall.  Sure, the girl in the mirror used to be younger, but I've watched her, day by day, and I know her.  At least I think I do.

Even while I can scarcely move around my house without me staring back at me, what I see in the mirror is an illusion, isn't it?  It's my "mirror image."  I'm backwards.  When I see me I see the opposite of what you see when you look at me.  I cannot gaze squarely upon my own face.

Most of the time, we seek out the familiar.  It's comfortable, like my own face in the mirror. I probably visit that grocery store four times a week, and I always go to the same store, because I know my way around.  I can find things I need in a flash.  It's familiar.  Now they're renovating the store.  Every single time I go in, things are somewhere new.  The shampoo is where the yogurt used to be.  The ice cream is where I used to find the office supplies.  Don't even get me started on the cream cheese, which I couldn't find for three weeks.

I hate going to the grocery store these days.  Everything is different and unfamiliar.  I feel lost.  I cling to the things that I recognize, the checkers, for instance.  They're the same.  I find myself striking up conversations with them even more than usual.  "Wow," I'll say.  "How about all this mess!  It must be driving you crazy.  Can you even find anything?"  But it's me who's feeling crazy.  I'm the one who can't find anything.

What I want is for the checker to be a mirror for me.  I want to see, in him, in her, my own uncertainty and sense of dislocation.

I suspect that the truest mirrors are not the shiny ones.  If I want to see what I really look like, who I really am, I need to look in someone else's eyes.  I want you to be something like me, so I can see myself outside of me.  Maybe, from the inside, I feel unsure.  I want reassurance.  I feel confused.  I want clarity.  I feel alone.  I want to connect.

If I can't find the reassurance and clarity and connection in my own heart, maybe I can see it reflected through your eyes, in your heart.  Maybe when we see each other face to face, I'll see you, but I'll also see the truer version of myself, the one that's not backward.

"For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then we will see face to face" (1 Corinthians 13:12a), says Paul.  Maybe today I can't look in the mirror and see myself as lovable and beloved (but if you haven't tried, I urge you to do so).  All hope is not lost, even still.  Look in the eyes of someone else -- a friend, a child, a beloved pet.  Let them be your mirror.  What do you see?  And what are you reflecting back to the them?

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