Seeing Our Beauty in the Mirror of Friendship
Hesitantly, I approached the mirror that stretched across our bathroom vanity. It was a season of unexpected learning. At sixty years of age (sixty!) - and after forty-five years of knowing Jesus - I'd arrived at a surprising reality. I didn't really believe that God loved me. Oh, I sort of knew the "Jesus Loves You" kind of love. But as I'd been digging into the me-application for a new writing project, one on how God sees us through Jesus as beauty full, I'd unearthed new doubts and sent myself sprawling into unbelief.
Not me! I've done too much stuff wrong. I'm ugly inside. I'm selfish and stubborn. And then, oooooh, the biggie that I discovered on a long bike ride: I'm scared to let God love me. It doesn't seem safe to be loved the way he seems to want to love me. See - I come from a messy, broken family where neither of my parents loved me well. I got used to being unloved and in a goofy way, I actually prefer the predictable defense of such a deficit.
You know the feeling?
Writing at my computer that day, I sensed God nudging me to move from realizing through my fingertips to risking a face-to-face reception of what he wanted me to know. Of how he wanted to change my understanding of how much he loves me, and therefore how he sees me.
That's how I ended up at the bathroom mirror.
I took a breath, looked myself in the eyes and obediently uttered these sentences, imagining God saying them to me: "I love you, Elisa. You are beauty full."
There. Done. I turned heel and walked away. That wasn't so hard! But to be honest, the moment melted away and I forgot all about it. Nothing much changed.
Until months later, on the last night of an annual girls weekend. At some point we christened ourselves "The Fab Five." After all, to us and each other, we are indeed, FABulous. We've shared years and layers of life and friendship and had just spent the weekend eating, walking, talking and encouraging each other to cling to the hem of Jesus' garment.
As it happened, we had plopped down on a king-size bed in one bedroom of the rented beach house. Like five little monkeys sitting in a row, we found ourselves staring ahead at the mirrored closet doors before us. We took each other in, remembering our weekend's revelations of unpacked pains and discoveries and embracing the strength created by carrying life together.
I felt God's nudge. I approached the mirror and stopped, some twelve inches from its surface. Behind me the remaining Fabs reflected smiles and acceptance. I inhaled, paused, and opened my mouth, pronouncing God's words to myself, "I love you, Elisa. You are beauty full."
In turn, each Fab followed, approaching the mirror, taking in her reflection, courageously pronouncing her value. Nervous red patches appeared along the neck of one. Tears sprang into the eyes of another as she stuttered to utter the sentences. Joyous confidence bubbled up in another. Sincerity flowed through yet another. In our own ways, we announced and received the love of our God for us, while behind us, the remaining four Fabs showed approval.
As we shared this moment and nudged each other onward, I thought back to that other, face-in-the-mirror moment some months earlier. What was different here - with the Fabs? We're different but the same. Varying in age over a fifteen-year span, having traveled through marriages (several for some), children (both biological and adopted), deaths of parents, transitions of cultures and careers - we help each other hear what God is revealing and recognize his nudges.
What I'd missed in my own mirror - alone - was multiplied in reflection. Five-fold love. Beauty full times five.
God uses us to reveal himself to each other. In that safe place, wooed by God and supported by my friends, I moved closer to realizing that God really does say, "Hello, Beauty Full." To me. To my Fab Five friends. To you. To all of us.