Monday, January 09, 2006

A Mirror for My Birthday

Today is my 41st birthday.

Last year, for my 40th, we invited over 5 couples that we love and enjoy very much. On that evening, my dear husband led the way for everyone to speak words of praise and blessing to the 4-decader, who was both very uncomfortable and very grateful. I will not reprint any of those words here, but believe me, the next morning I wrote them all down in my journal for re-reading.

The great gift my friends gave me that night was a vision of who I am in God's eyes--apart from my many flaws, of which they are certainly aware. When I examine myself in my internal "mirror," what I see is distorted by my too-familiar faults, weakness and sinfulness, as well as by my own wishful thinking. But there is an objective "me"--the me that God made me to be, the "Not I, but Christ" in the mirror--that only God and other believers may be able to accurately reflect.

In That Hideous Strength, by C.S. Lewis, Jane (in the midst of a conversion process) thinks,

Supposing one were a thing after all--a thing designed and invented by Someone Else and valued for qualities quite different from what one had decided to regard as one's true self? Supposing all those people who, from the bachelor uncles down to Mark and Mother Dimble, had infuriatingly found her sweet and fresh when she wanted them to find her also interesting and important, had all along been simply right and perceived the sort of thing she was?...

That same afternoon Mother Dimble and the three girls...were standing amidst a collection of robes of state--dozens of robes which hung, each separate, from its little pillar of wood.

"That would do beautifully for you, Ivy," said Mother Dimble...as she draped it skilfully around Ivy. Then she said, "Oh!" in genuine amazement. All three stood back from Ivy staring at her with delight. The commonplace had not exactly gone from her form and face, the robe had taken it up, as a great composer takes up a folk tune and tosses it like a ball through his symphony and makes of it a marvel, yet leaves it still itself. A "pert fairy" or "dapper elf," a small though perfect sprightliness, stood before them: but still recognisably Ivy Maggs.

"Isn't that like a man!" exclaimed Mrs. Dimble. "There's not a mirror in the room."

"I don't believe we were meant to see ourselves," said Jane. "He said something about being mirrors enough to see another."

...Jane could see nothing specially appropriate in the robe which the others agreed in putting on her. Blue was, indeed, her colour but she had thought of something a little more austere and dignified. Left to her own judgment, she would have called this a little "fussy." But when she saw the others all clap their hands, she submitted.

...Now Camilla," said Mother Dimble. "There's no puzzle about you. This is obviously your one."

"Oh, do you think that one?" said Camilla.

"Yes, of course," said Jane.

"You'll look ever so nice in that," said Ivy. It was a long slender thing which looked like steel in colour though it was soft as foam to the touch. It wrapped itself close about her loins and flowed out in a glancing train at her heels. "Like a mermaid," thought Jane; and then, "like a Valkyrie."

"I'm afraid," said Mother Dimble, "you must wear a coronet with that one."

"Wouldn't that be rather...?"

But Mother Dimble was already setting it on her head....There were perhaps no such diamonds in England. The splendour was fabulous, preposterous.

"What are you all staring at?" asked Camilla, who...did not know that she stood "like starlight, in the spoils of provinces."

I never got around to writing thank you notes to my friends--shortly after, I had a baby, then the baby got very sick, and there was a long recovery. But thank you, my friends, for speaking those words of fabulous, preposterous splendor. There are things we are "not meant to see ourselves"; thank you for being "mirrors enough" and for rightly perceiving "the sort of thing" God is making. The gown you've given me is not quite what I'd have selected for myself--but how utterly beautiful it is!

One last quote, from Jane's conversion experience:

The name me was the name of ...a person (not the person she had thought), yet also a thing, a made thing, made to please Another and in Him to please all others, a thing being made at this very moment, without its choice, in a shape it had never dreamed of. And the making went on amidst a kind of splendour or sorrow or both, whereof she could not tell whether it was in the moulding hands or in the kneaded lump.

"And the making went on amidst a kind of splendour or sorrow or both"--a good summary of another year of life well-lived--or as near to well-lived as I can get. There is splendour and sorrow in every day. God is making me into a shape I never dreamed of--Praise Him!

Friends, be mirrors for one another. Encourage and affirm the gifts and strengths of others. Name the sort of thing God is making them to be; reflect its beauty so that they can catch a glimpse of it too. In every individual there is a unique reflection of Christ to be seen!

1 comment:

Emily said...

My mother passed away when I was a teenager. That was the first time I realized how important it is to tell others how much you care about them.

Now I am "old" (over 30!) and a mother myself. Lately, God has been teaching and reminding me not just to tell people I love them, but to tell them how wonderful they are, especially when I realize they can't always see what I see.

You are blessed to have such friends, including your husband who set it all up.