Physical appearance— it has always been an issue for me. I think I have always felt a bit like an underdog when it comes to wanting to look the part. Since I can’t see well, I have always had to question the current style or wonder if I missed something in my quick glance in the mirror. Having my prosthetic eye in place has helped with some of this anxiety, but I have always felt insecure when it comes to the way I look.
This is why each Christmas season when I host my annual concert, I enlist the help of friends to do my hair and make-up. I know that true beauty lies on the inside, but I also want to look my best for my night onstage. I mean, what girl wants to show up with a pasty-white face and limp hair? I was never really shown how to properly apply make-up with the challenge of limited vision, so I have always entrusted others to highlight the features that need to be amplified and cover-up those I would rather not show.
Being in the performance industry has its frustrating implications. Television and magazines lay out the expectations for musicians and entertainers— people who must look perfect for the cameras. Oh, the horror of being caught with your hair undone or a glaring blemish on your face, void of any make-up! And let’s not forget the expectation to be thin! It seems beside the point that nearly half of Americans are overweight, but that still doesn’t matter. We are a culture driven toward physical beauty and unrealistic expectations.
So imagine my surprise and intrigue when I stumbled upon a quote on a friend’s Facebook page: “Many people would be scared if they saw in the mirror, not their faces… but their character.” What would it be like to be caught with your character on display like that? I would think it would be far more terrifying than being caught with limp hair and no make-up. It makes me think of the old song by Christian Aguilera, “Reflection.” The singer asks: “When will my reflection show who I am inside?” I’m sure the song is coming from a platform of wanting to be understood beyond the physical— to be known for inner beauty. But in this case, I’m not sure I would want my character to be taken at face value through the stark reflection of a mirror.
I have come through a great deal in my lifetime thus far, and I’m sure I am not alone in this. I can definitely attest to the fact that I haven’t had the best attitude in the midst of challenging circumstances. I am often quick to stress out when technology goes on the fritz, moan in frustration when sick, grumble when challenges arise, and cry out in complaint when something is lost. I don’t take negativity and disappointment well; in fact, I’m a poor sufferer. But then again, is anyone good at suffering? It’s not fun to go through times of difficulty.
But my hope is in Christ. I should be willing to go through these trials, right? In light of His suffering for you and for me on the cross, I shouldn’t balk at the trials that pale in comparison to that ultimate sacrifice. But I balk; I whine, complain, cry, moan, and ask “why me?” And then I get questions from family and friends: Are you okay? You look worried. What’s wrong? Do you want to talk about it?
My suffering, my emotions, my grief is so visible on my face that I can’t hide it. In times such as these, it is as if I am face-to-face with a mirror. What character traits are on display at such times? Well, certainly not faith, hope or joy. Instead, my face portrays the inner turmoil. It probably isn’t difficult to see the doubt, stress, worry, or physical pain. To many, I am an open book, my emotions on full display for anyone to see. Are my negative emotions something I want others to see so vividly when I want so much to be a living example for Christ?
Yes, I am human and times of weakness take place day-to-day. But if my suffering produces perseverance, character, and hope (Romans 5:3-4), then I should be willing to take a look in the mirror (literally!). What does my reflection convey about my inner character? What will others see when they look at me? Will they see the panic and uncertainty that results from the trials of life, or will they see a faith tested by the long-range plan of my Savior?
I don’t know about you, but I’m going to take some time to examine my reflection in my spiritual mirror. A physical make-over takes time, but so does a make-over of the heart. I may not achieve character-beauty overnight, but I’ll keep working at it as long as it takes to build up hope in the midst of suffering; that way, when time s of darkness come, I can more effectively portray the light of Christ.