31 Sunday OT B ~ "Mirror, Mirror" ~ Susan McGurgan


When I was a girl, I hated my hair.

Seriously...

Hated it.


You see,

when I was growing up,

every girl dreamed of looking like Peggy Lipton of the Mod Squad.

Or maybe, Cher.

Take a look at any class picture or yearbook page

from the late 60’s and early 70’s

and you will see row after row of little girls

of all shapes and sizes and colors

wearing

(or trying to wear)

Long, straight, shiny hair parted down the middle

and flowing past their shoulders.


Some girls achieved this nirvana effortlessly.

And in an era that was all about the hair,

these girls ruled.

Others,

like me,

were not so lucky.


Despite a complicated--

some might say tortured--

routine that included

juice cans,

tape,

hair dryers,

tropical conditioners

hot rollers

a jello-like substance called Dippity-Do

and on desperate occasions, Mom’s Sunbeam iron,

I could never overcome biology.

My unruly hair was a legacy from Grandma Sophia—

inherited along with her green eyes and short legs.

My hair was curly,

frizzy,

non-conforming

and completely uncooperative.

It had its own life,

and in humid weather,

its own zip code.


I spent hours in front of the mirror trying to subdue it,

only to step outside

and feel the Oklahoma wind

churn it into a wasteland where combs went to die.


It’s funny,

hair seems like such a small thing now,

so inconsequential in the larger story of my life.

Styles change,

perspective shifts,

little girls grow up—

but still…

still…

I can still remember how it felt

to look in that mirror and cry.

To look into a mirror darkly

and hate the image—

and sometimes even the person—

looking back at me.

Maybe for you,

it was your body—

maybe you thought you were too tall,

or too skinny,

or too round.


Maybe you were uniquely quirky

in a place and time

where conformity was king.


Maybe your family celebrated all things athletic,

and you were the kid

who tripped over chalk lines on the sidewalk.


Maybe you were scary smart

but desperate to be invisible

in an average world.


Maybe your home was chaotic and frightening—

even violent—

and you blamed yourself when adults failed to protect you.

Maybe you hurt in ways you couldn’t understand

and wondered

how you could ever escape a pain

you couldn’t even name.


Maybe when you looked in the mirror,

you saw the distorted reflection

of someone you thought was ugly,

or stupid--

someone broken—

someone no one else could love.


Maybe you still feel that way…

sometimes.


In a culture that is often accused of self-absorption,

self-promotion,

egocentrism,

and downright narcissism,

it may seem strange to begin a reflection on this passage

with a discussion about loving ourselves.

But loving ourselves—

seeing ourselves as worthy,

and beautiful,

and beloved,

seeing ourselves as sons and daughters of the King,

lies at the heart of what Jesus is trying to teach.


Despite our culture’s emphasis on self-care

and self-worth,

many of us struggle to love ourselves fully

and find value in the person

gazing back from the mirror.


When we look into a mirror

and see a distortion,

our ability to love others is warped,

twisted,

even fractured.

Eating disorders, addictions, toxic relationships,

destructive habits, avoidance—

the fallout when we can’t see our own worth

can be dark and damaging.


The call to love God

and to love others as we love ourselves

beckons us —

not into self-absorption or conceit,

but into wholeness and healing and liberation.


The call to love God and love ourselves

is a clarion call to silence those voices

that speak lies into us—

to dismiss the hissing in our ears

that suggests we are never good enough,

worthy enough,

smart enough,

“Peggy Lipton” enough to be God’s beloved.

Now, it might seem that something so profound,

so transformational

would be difficult to obtain.

Rare.

Limited.

Available while supplies last.


But it simply comes.

Unbeckoned.

Unrestricted.

Ours for the taking.

God's love is extravagant,

excessive,

without measure.

It is not an emotion that ebbs and flows,

dependent on place,

or feeling,

or circumstance.


It is a virtue.


Along with faith and hope,

love is a virtue;

a God-shaped puzzle piece embedded deep within us.

Pure gift,

it simply flows from God to us--

and if we receive it,

from us

out into the world.


All we have to do is accept it.


When we accept this love and return it,

we can angle a lens

and find God’s fingerprints marking all creation.

When we embrace this love,

our peripheral vision sharpens—

widens--

allowing us to discover the face of God

reflected in the people around us.


When we follow this greatest of commandments—

to love—

We will look in the mirror,

and even as the world whispers that we are

too awkward,

too round,

too quirky,

too fragile or odd or broken to have value,

we will see God,

pure love,

gazing back.


Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these."


(c) Susan Fleming McGurgan

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