“Magic mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?”
So says the evil queen in this magical moment made famous by Disney in the first release of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves back in February 1938. Remember it? The self-obsessed queen gazes hungrily and haughtily into her magic mirror and asks her famous question – one she’s likely asked every day, time after time, and already knows the answer to, because she’s made darn sure of it – and settles into murderous intent when the wrong answer is returned: “Snow White is the fairest of them all.”
This morning as I was getting dressed I looked in the mirror over my bathroom sink. I stood there taking in all my facial features, inspecting my hair line for more gray, my eyes for bags and wrinkles, and my skin for firmness and glow. I turned to the side to check my body profile, particularly my tummy, and scrutinized my body parts and skin and muscles as I shed my jammies and jumped into the shower. I’ve done this countless times over the years, but today I wondered again why and what it means, and it got me thinking about Queeny and Snow and mirrors.
I lathered up my hair and made a mental inventory of the mirrors in my space: two huge ones in the master and guest baths, one in the downstair half bath, one over each of my dressers, and one in each visor of my car along with a rearview mirror, two side mirrors and a tiny handheld in my purse. Then I thought about all the mirrors in the public places I frequent: the gym and women’s lockers, restrooms, restaurants, malls, stores, hospitals, healthcare facilities, places of worship, grocery stores, cinemas, and schools. Even every window is a potential mirror (c’mon, you know it’s true!). Mirrors are everywhere so it seems and I think we, like Queeny, are pretty obsessed with our appearance.
But why? What was she – what are we – really looking at and for? What is it that mirrors tell us about ourselves, so much so that we surround ourselves with them and develop little routines and movements around them? What are they reflecting back at us? Are we really just checking our look…or is it something deeper?
I think each glance in a mirror, habitual, studious and sustained like mine in my bathroom every morning or quick and casual like the one we catch of our shadows in store front windows, actually poses a haunting question, the answer to which satisfies a life-giving, personal and human need: to know who we are.
“Mirror mirror on the wall, am I <insert your adjective> enough?”
“Mirror mirror on the wall, does <insert your family, friend, spouse or God> really love or want me?”
“Mirror mirror on the wall, do I have what it takes to <insert the thing you need or want>?”
We are really asking:
Who am I? Why am I here? What am I doing? Do I belong? Where do I belong? To whom do I belong? What’s my worth? Where am I going? Do I measure up? Am I enough? Am I acceptable? Am I loved? Am I appreciated? Am I needed? Am I important? Am I able?
It’s haunting because we don’t really know the answer, or worse, we fear it. But we need to know; somehow our whole existence hinges on knowing the answer to this one question. And so, just like Queeny, we gaze into mirrors every chance we get, whisper our incantations and wait hungrily for the answers.
Most of the time we can anticipate the answers because like Queeny we’ve gone to great lengths and cost to create our identities that will be accepted and appreciated by others, especially ourselves. I personally have created identities in an endless number of constructs: Christian, wife, mother, single-mother, daughter, sister, healthcare practitioner, college graduate, doctoral candidate, exchange student, world traveler, multilingual, academic, intelligent, cute, beautiful, petite, feisty, Democrat, Republican, Independent, business owner, home owner, servant, healthy person, age, generation, family tree, Yankee, American. The list goes on and on. It’s absolutely insidious. Whatever constructs became available in my life in what I did, had or looked like, I placed the essence of my identity there, and trusted my mirrors to confirm them.
The problem of course is that the constructs always change or dissolve or are discarded or wrenched from us – we live on planet earth for crying out loud! – and so then is the identity. The haunting returns and we run to our mirrors clutching our spells to try yet again to understand who we are.
But what if we change the mirror….?
Thank God, there is a mirror that always lovingly tells us the truth about who we are. Unlike the mirrors of the world that only reflect our ever changing surfaces, this mirror sees and reveals the our fundamental human fullness of who we were, who we are, who we are becoming and who we will be. It knows us fully inside and out, better than we even know ourselves, and never judges, rejects, or criticizes. Instead it accepts, blesses, heals, encourages and guides even on our worst day. This mirror will never, ever lie to us, trick us or shame us. It loves us unconditionally and laid down its life for us to prove it. We can trust this mirror to tell us who we really are.
This mirror is Jesus and here is what He says about you if you have believed in and trusted Him with your life:
You are God’s child. [John 1:12]
You are Jesus’ friend. [John 15:15]
You are known. [Psalm 139]
You are chosen. [Eph. 1:4,11; John 15:16]
You belong to God. [1 Cor. 6:20]
You are a new creation. [2 Cor 5:17]
You are good. [Eph. 1:4]
You are forgiven. [Eph. 1:8]
You are included. [Eph. 1:3]
You are complete in Christ. [Eph. 3:9; Col. 2:9-10]
You are dearly loved. [Col. 3:12]
You are not alone. [Heb. 13:5]
You are free from the power of sin. [Rom. 6:6]
You are safe. [1 John 5:18]
You are secure. [Eph. 2:20]
You can not be separated from the love of God. [Rom. 8:31-39]
You have God’s power. [Eph. 6-10]
You have Christ himself in you. [Col. 1:27]
You have the Holy Spirit. [Eph. 1:13-14]
You have a spirit of power, love and
self-discipline, not one of fear. [2 Tim. 1:7]
You are a partaker of the divine nature. [2 Pet. 1:4]
These verses only touch the surface of the deep well of scriptures where we hear God whispering our identities to us: “You are Mine and I am yours. THIS is who you are”. We find we are central to the plot of His story of the perfect jilted lover Who loved so deeply and completely He willingly and unhesitatingly laid down His own life so His beloved, so we, could return to His love and to our true selves.
This means that our roles and circumstances can change or dissolve or be wrenched from us, even our very life taken, but our identities stand firm and remain in Him. We are who we are because of whose we are….which means our next gaze into a mirror, instead of a haunting, fearful questioning, can be a celebration and appreciation of our true selves and the Love that made us who we are.
So, now it’s your turn.
Have you thought about the mirrors in your life? What are you looking for your mirrors to tell you?
What does Jesus say about you? Are you willing to believe what He says? Why or why not?