A Face Like New Jersey

At the crack of dawn, I shuffled into the hotel bathroom and fumbled for the light switch. My eyes were half-closed sandbags from the weight of a long trip. But when I peered into the mirror, I was startled awake by the hideous face staring back at me.  Clearly I was staying in a hotel where the ultra-fluorescent, über-obnoxious bathroom lighting was designed by a man.

If a woman had her choice, every mirror in the world would be surrounded by the flattering frame of lambent candlelight.  Typical lighting, the fluorescent fiend, highlights every flaw in our skin from wrinkles to things we can’t wait to question God about someday, such as nose hair.  But we have no need or desire to see the subcutaneous layer of our skin.  We tend to shriek when our pores appear larger than craters.  No one wants to stick a Q-Tip where it may have to be retrieved by a Moon Rover.

As I searched the hotel bathroom for a dimmer, I remembered the vain queen from Snow White.  Every day she asked her magical mirror, “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who in the land is fairest of all?”  to which the mirror always replied: “You, my queen, are fairest of all.” But one day when the queen asked her mirror, it responded: “Snow White is the fairest of them all.”  This is what happens when you allow the king to install new lighting.

While I was trying to recover from my scary reflection, my daughter Grace entered the bathroom, looked in the mirror, and stated, “Mommy, your face is so beautiful.”  I felt better until later when we were travelling through an ugly construction scene on I-95 and Grace piped up from the back seat, “Mommy, New Jersey is so beautiful.”   I quickly analyzed the syllogism:

A.  My face is beautiful.

B.  New Jersey is beautiful.

C.  Therefore, my face looks like New Jersey.

My mind flashed back to high school English class, when our teacher asked us to explain the meaning behind the last line of “Ode on a Grecian Urn” by John Keats:

“Beauty is truth, truth beauty,” – that is all

Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know

At that age, we couldn’t understand why this man was so moved by pottery. He might as well have written “Ode on a Greasy Tupperware.”  We struggled to summarize the meaning behind this cryptic phrase, each of us providing lengthy, philosophical essays.  Even today, scholars still dig so far with the mega-drill of their words that they may reach the earth’s mantle.

If I could find my English teacher now, I would skim the answer right from the surface in two sentences:

When something is made by God, you simply cannot deny its beauty.  And nothing is more beautiful than His Truth.

James 1:23-25

Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror

and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.

But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it–he will be blessed in what he does.

Even though we know exactly what we look like, we still have to check ourselves in the mirror several times a day.  It would be difficult  to tolerate bathrooms without mirrors, but people did it for centuries, and some cultures still do it today.

God is not concerned with whatever we are checking out in the mirror.  He doesn’t worry about smudged eyeliner or spinach stuck in the teeth.  In the mirror of His Word, nothing can show us more quickly how ugly or attractive we are.

1 Samuel 16:7

…The LORD does not look at the things man looks at.  Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.

There have been times when I have read a verse and shrieked from the fluorescent light revealing the flaws in my heart.  But when I change my heart, no matter what I look like physically, I know that God thinks I’m beautiful.  Even with a face like New Jersey.