In 1987 Michael Jackson released “Man in the Mirror” a single that in many ways, was a riff on Gandhi’s “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
At about 7/8 years old I did not know Gandhi’s quote, but I did know Michael. And I took this song very seriously. I wanted to change, I was desperate for it. If I could change all of my problems would be solved. I lived in a world where, true or not, the perception was that everything was my fault. If I could only change my ways, all would be right in the (my) world
What do you do to change? The southern baptist girl asked: You pray.
When I first learned to pray I prayed in a child-like way. I prayed as a way of stalling before bedtime. Every friend, family member, dog or cat I could think of. I once prayed for all the animals in the zoo.
One day, as a teenager, my youth leader was talking about prayer. He asked us, “when’s the last time you prayed for yourself?”
I had never prayed for myself. Not really.
I had prayed for things, but not for myself. I prayed for a bike, to be smart, to be thin, but never “for” myself. Never thanking God for the person that is me (Baptists would NEVER have done that). But this progressive mystical Presbyterian youth leader challenged us to go home, stare at ourselves in the mirror, look directly into our eyes and say:
“I am a beloved child of God, with me, God is well pleased.”
I went home and looked in the mirror, put my face as close to it as possible and stared in my eyes… for about 1 second. Then I quickly left the bathroom. Each day I would try again. Crying. Until it was a regular practice. Then one day it stopped again.
So years later I went back to it. And I stopped again.
Today I read a prayer today that reminded me of this practice. It’s found in the book “The Way of Simplicity: The Cistercian Tradition” by Esther De Waal:
The bodily appearance of the Lord was changed as he prayed
and thereby he wished to bring home to your mind the power of prayer,
makes you different in your inmost being and meditation
changes you into a new self
and renews you.
‘With our unveiled faces reflecting like mirrors the brightness of the Lord’ says Paul,
‘we are turned into the image which we reflect’,
that is, we are transformed
into the very image we gaze upon.
I stopped because I started seeing someone else’s image of me more important than my own or, most importantly than God’s.
Why should staring at God’s creation be so difficult?
It has gotten so bad that I avoid mirrors all together. The demon creeps back, “How can anyone be friends with you? have a conversation with you? Look at you? I mean… LOOK at you, you’re disgusting” The demons are mean.
But it’s time.
Tonight I will close the bathroom door and stare into the mirror. Even if it’s for one second. I would never allow anyone to teach my children (God’s beautiful creation) this way, why would I allow myself? It has to stop.
I will look into the woman in the mirror and I will tell her who she really is. Once she believes it, she can start changing her ways to act like it.