One of the most beautiful people I’ve ever met is unique in many ways, but there’s one thing about her that stands out. She doesn’t own a mirror.
I’ve lived my life in the mirror. It’s a physical presence on my wall, a window to a world edged with every emotion on the spectrum. Most mornings I find myself doing the thing that makes all self-respecting novelists cringe: the mirror description. Round face, plus-sized. Blondish-brown hair, if blonde and brown had a fight and compromised on a muddy in-between color. One eyebrow stuck a good deal higher than the other, making it look as if I’m always up to something. On the whole, unfantastically average.
Except, perhaps, for the scars.
I have lots of scars, both literal and figurative. Each one comes to life in the mirror; each one has a story. Some are easy to place. Interesting, even. The round dimple of a chicken pox scar on my forehead. The white line down my knee where I cut myself while playing in the church’s attic. (Whether or not I was allowed to be up there at the time is up for debate.) The triangle on my palm where I fell at a friend’s house, and with great accuracy found the only loose bolt in the floor. The H-shaped scar on my hand left by a brief but memorable encounter with a chainsaw.
Some aren’t so easy to place.
The quiet assumption that I need to be smaller. Not just size-wise, but in every way. Don’t talk loud, don’t make a scene, don’t upset the status quo. Don’t make yourself heard. Your opinion doesn’t matter anyway. The feeling that I’ll never be quite enough, that I can’t exist in any meaningful way without someone else’s approval. And the fear behind it all, nibbling at my heart like slow gangrene: I am not, and never will be, beautiful.
That scar’s the deepest one. You can’t always see it. Like the scar on my hand, it can change with the weather. Some days it’s so pale, one quick glance and you’d never know it was there. But then the weather turns. The sun slips behind the clouds. The mirror lies to you. And there’s the scar for the world to see, dark and obvious and ugly and permanent.
I’ve talked with many women over the years—younger women, peers, older women—and found that it’s a scar we share, even my friend who doesn’t own a mirror. We’ve internalized the mirror. All of us are hunting for the cure, for some salve that will take away the bumps, ridges and brokenness. We’re hunting for beauty: beauty of face, beauty of body, beauty of soul.
I was raised to believe that there is a God who cares about even the smallest things, including my doubts and fears and insecurities, and that everyone who seeks will eventually find. I believed, or at least I said I did, but scar tissue has a funny way of blocking the pathways between the head and the heart. I’d read of a Savior who was sent to proclaim freedom for the prisoners, to bind up the broken-hearted, and to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor to the oppressed. I’d hear about this God-Man who had neither beauty nor majesty to attract us to him, of how He was pierced, stricken, crushed, and how it’s by His wounds that we’re healed.
I’d try to listen to that, but somehow the mirror always spoke louder.
Too big! Too plain! Too imperfect!
So one morning, standing in front of the mirror, I finally said aloud what I’d been thinking, and fearing, for more than twenty years. “I’m not beautiful. I can’t be beautiful. I know too much about scars.”
It’s a strange feeling when you can at last articulate your heart’s cry. Freeing, yes, but sad too. You shout your pain into the void, not knowing if anyone can hear you, or if anyone cares. You teach yourself not to expect a reply.
That morning, Someone answered.
Beneath the lies, beneath the mirror screaming its approval of my doubts and bitterness, as quiet as a butterfly settling on my soul, I heard another voice, still and small and good.
“You’re beautiful because I’ve made you so. Yes, you are broken. I make broken things better. You may know a few things about scars, but oh my Beloved, so do I.”
And that’s who I am. Broken, and scarred, and beautiful.
Scar stories. Skin-scars or soul-scars, we all have them. What are some of yours?
A textbook introvert who likes to burn the textbook every once in a while just to see what happens, Elle discovered a love of storytelling at a young age. When well-meaning but unimaginative adults told her there wasn’t a living in writing books, she grudgingly got a day job. Writing is still her full time passion. Always fascinated by impossible things, sci-fi and fantasy are her genres of choice, though she has been known to eke out a horror story or two.
To view the hilarious spectacle that is a writer navigating the 140-character limit, follow Elle on Twitter at @elle_k_writes.
You can also find her on Facebook at facebook.com/ellewhite.author.