For years now, mirrors have been telling my story with increasing honesty. The supple skin of yesteryear is rapidly developing the patina of age.
This patina is not the graceful kind. There’s no hint at the artful brush strokes of a Rubens or Rembrandt. Blemishes once faint are now promenading in bold relief. They confirm the prophetic word of those old black-and-white Reader’s Digest ads, which bemoaned “Those Horrid Age Spots.” Big deal, I thought as a kid. Yet now prophecy has been fulfilled. My decades-old skin proves it. And, frankly, I suppose it is no big deal.
But these subtly encroaching blemishes are not the only thing. Bumps, bulges and bunions are cropping up in the oddest spots. I am regularly exchanging cranial follicles for hair in the most ill-favored, inconvenient places. Weight, which used to come just for a visit, now breathes a satisfied sigh and settles in with full room and board.
Marketing gurus are eagerly waiting to address these physical annoyances with a plethora of solutions. They offer an unending supply of pseudo-magic to melt my horrid age spots away, sculpt the body, smooth the skin, tighten up wrinkles or remove love handles. They seek to convince me my happiness will soar, my relationships will flourish, my purpose in life will be enriched, if only I invest in their cause of ridding these bumps, bulges, bunions and blemishes.
Yet those who continue to spend thousands in a never-ending search for cosmetic perfection may be missing a simple truth: Life-changing transformation comes only from the inside out, from a Father who loves us just as we are.
Indeed, an OCD bout with external correction can become a barrier to better things. Some would like our church to consistently match carefully constructed expectations — everyone spiffed up, looking the same, marching in lockstep. But that runs counter to the creative energy of the Spirit to whom we have been entrusted until the end. The perspective our Lord longs for is echoed in David’s heartfelt request: “Create in me a clean heart, O God. And renew in me a right spirit.”
The mother who, putting housework, business or self aside, sits down and really listens to her children has got it right. The husband who sets the mobile phone to “silent” while on a date with his wife has his priorities figured out. The church member who welcomes a young adult into the foyer with a hug understands the core values of the kingdom. Those who spend time down among the trenches of real life are incalculably more beautiful than those with the magnifying glass or mirror. Truth runs clearest and best when combined with the honesty of relationship.
Scripture places a heavenly value on a heart aligned with the gospel mission: “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who proclaims peace, who brings glad tidings of good things, who proclaims salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!’”
If you have been unjustly weighed in the balances of outward expectations and found wanting, the One in whom there was “no form or comeliness,” who was “despised and rejected by men," sees and understands. He looks beyond bumps, bulges, bunions and blemishes. He goes straight to the heart and says, "I choose you. Come, follow Me."