Mirrors: the Proof of Vanity

I don’t like mirrors. Before anyone who knows what I look like jumps in with “But you’re so pretty! You should be friends with the mirror!” Let’s just say this is not about my beauty, or lack thereof, or my perception of that state of aesthetics. My mother said things like “Beauty is as beauty does.” And she was probably right. Thee cannot be beautiful outwardly with an inner ugliness of spirit and heart. Thee may paint a pretty face, but eventually the mask will fall.

Babies like mirrors. Small children are fascinated by their own image, and the image of Mommy and Daddy, and the image of the room backward, and the room upside down, and the dog, and the trees outside…It’s a childish thing to like mirrors. It is, in a way, an innocent fascination with the way things are, and how they can be changed by perception. Of course, budgies are fascinated with mirrors, too, sometimes loving the bird on the other side of the window, and sometimes hating it. Budgies aren’t very smart.

I used to have that ambivalent relationship with the mirror many women have. I couldn’t avoid the thing. I didn’t want to look, but look I did, every opportunity, always checking to see if the mask had slipped, if I was out of uniform in some way, if the “me” I wanted the world to see was still there. I made excuses about the mirrors – that appearances are important – for other people – that I didn’t want to look ridiculous with hair, lipstick, dress out of order. But the truth was that I both doted on and loathed the blue eyes and full mouth, the strong chin and straight brown hair. It was a pure case of vanity. Not megalomania, a worship of the idol in the glass, but that peculiar state of sin that adores the image while still despising its imperfections. It is refusal to accept what God has made, and holding up Divine Creation to the standards of Sin. And the harder I tried to control it, the more it demanded.

I would clear out the closet, and hide the flattering clothes elsewhere. I would throw out the make-up and hair ornaments. I would purposely dress myself in black, severe clothes and flat shoes. This did not work. My heart was still vain, and I was just trying to lie to myself and God about it. In very little time, I would be buying foolish clothes, foolish face paint, foolish shoes and hair decorations. I had boxes of jewelry, “tasteful” certainly, but still ornaments to improve on God’s hand.

And I never got rid of the mirrors. Mirrors are important. They tell us who we are, don’t they?

Of course not. Mirrors tell us what mask we put on, what face we give to the world today, what lie we are telling.

Plain was a major heart-change for me. I prayed over it. I was moved to change my life drastically, including how I appeared to the world. I knew that I was being called to a different place in my spirit, a place of calm, peace and resting in God. It was a call to an inner monasticism, even if my body had to move in the World to serve the Light of Christ. I wanted a way to take that monasticism with me, an expression of the sanctuary.

First, I got rid of the worldly clothes, and kept very plain dark things. I needed practical clothes that held up under hard work and an active life, that didn’t require strange cleaning methods or frequent renewals of buttons and frills. I needed clothes that when I got up in the morning, I could put on anything in the closet and it would all match.

I was strongly convicted to cover my head. At first I resisted, and resorted to scarves and bandannas, but the traditional prayer cap and bonnet became so obvious to me that within a few weeks I had made some. Rarely have I gone without them since, in over two, almost three years. It is the security of the monastery over my head, the protection of the headship of Christ.

We have one mirror now, the one in the bathroom over the sink. The others are gone, the big wall ones, the little pocket ones. If I am not perfect in my Plainness, it doesn’t matter. God will forgive me.