Funny story about this mirror. As an anniversary gift this year, Joe made a beautiful cedar frame for a wonderful old mirror that we uncovered a few years ago, when we were first cleaning out our little cabin and homesite. To see more about how it’s made, click here!
Since we do all things by prayer, seeking to honor the Lord with everything that we do, we often find that our everyday work is a source of spiritual lessons that we don’t always expect! And that was true with this mirror project, as well.
Mirrors are interesting things. They are one of the most commonplace of household accessories. Historically, they were often a luxury item, a possession of the wealthy. But today, large mirrors are no longer unusual – most bathrooms have large mirrors over the vanity, and most homes have several large mirrors throughout. It’s so ordinary that I doubt most people even notice it anymore. I never noticed it, in any of the several different homes and apartments that I lived in over the course of 30 years or so…until I didn’t have one…And honestly, I didn’t even think that much about it then, until suddenly, I had one again!
When Joe completed this large, beautiful mirror, it made me reflect…(oh dear, that really was terrible, reflect, so sorry)…
It made me pause and think back over the past few years. It made both of us pause and think back. Because, what we suddenly realized, was that it’s been over five years since we’d had anything larger than a medicine-cabinet mirror!
~ the purpose of a mirror ~
So, we did a little mirror research, because that’s just fun. The word mirror comes from the French and Latin words for “admire,” and mirrors have a long history of association with vanity, luxury, and all kinds of idol worship (The History of Mirror: Through a Glass Darkly). Over time, mirrors were less-associated with worshipping particular gods, but the practice of adorning spaces with mirrors has become a more subtle form of worship. From the luxurious palaces of the 17th century right down into modern times, we have come to associate beauty with mirrors reflecting our own image, our possessions, and all kinds of things that human hands have made.
God’s word tells us that the purpose of a mirror should be to look upon ourselves in order to see what is imperfect, and do what is necessary to correct it.
For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.(James 1:23-35, KJV)
This is why God’s word is a perfect mirror. When we gaze upon ourselves in its surface, we can clearly see our flaws, and apply ourselves to our Father for forgiveness and assistance to change. And, if there are physical mirrors in our lives, they will be at their best when they fit this purpose. But the prominent and abundant mirrors of today’s society lend themselves much more to self-admiration and self-contemplation and self-absorption, rather than the simple and functional activity of correcting flaws like bed-head!
~ moving away from mirrors ~
Interestingly, we realized that our anti-mirror experience began when we moved into our little home in Bellingham, WA in 2013. Our move to Bellingham was our first journey, as a family, in purposely asking the Lord to guide us where He would have us go, to simply follow where He led in all trust without leaning on our own understanding. And we moved into a small bungalow-style house, which had one small medicine-cabinet mirror in the bathroom. In fact, when I wanted to check my outfit for work, I would set the iPad on a step-stool in selfie-mode!
While we lived in Bellingham, we entered into a journey of spiritual growth that was much greater than we ever expected. We learned so much about worshipping God and studying His word. We experienced dreams and visions, strange attacks of the enemy and miraculous healings. This is when we began to be led into some major life changes, like working with our hands and homeschooling. We were learning an incredible amount in a short time about holy living and about false teaching.
I entered into a study, personally, about what it means to seek that beauty of “the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.” (1 Peter 3:4, KJV). As a result, I stopped wearing jewelry, nail polish, and makeup, because I suddenly saw clearly that adorning my outward appearance was not honoring to God.
And though I never realized it at the time, it now seems perfectly appropriate that a time of great growth in the Lord was a time without large mirrors all over the house!
Fast-forward to another journey of faith, in which we packed up once more, and asked the Lord to direct our paths. We embarked on another path of spiritual learning that was much greater than we ever expected, and ultimately wound up in our little cabin on our little homestead in Downeast Maine. We had to entirely deconstruct the cabin, right down to the studs, and remove everything inside. So we moved into a clean slate.
And our only mirror in the house, ever since that day about three years ago, has been this hand mirror hanging next to the bathroom sink.
It has performed its job admirably, and we have all been able to make sure that we got the dirt off our cheeks, smoothed our unruly hairs into place, and had clean smiles. And if I wanted to make sure my clothes were straight, I just used the reflection in the front glass door!
So over the course of five years or so, I have never really missed having a mirror, and I have never really thought about why…
~ the mirror today ~
But now, a mirror has re-entered our lives. A mirror that had an interesting way of honoring the Lord, because we were able to use something from the property that had been left-behind. It’s actually a wonderful vintage piece that dates back to 1966! A mirror that was very sweet because Joe lovingly framed it with the work of his hands. A mirror which would allow us, after these five years, to see ourselves from head-to-toe all at one time. A mirror which I contemplated with respect, with a desire to treat it according to God’s plan instead of man’s tendency, for simple correction instead of contemplation and admiration.
A mirror which has served the additional purpose of causing me to reflect upon the great benefit of not having a mirror for the past few years of our everyday lives!
~ final thoughts ~
Just at the time that Joe was working on this project, I happened to reading Matthew Henry’s Commentary on Exodus 38, during the building of the tabernacle in the wilderness. For the construction of the brass wash-basins, the women of Israel all gave their looking-glasses.
And he made the laver of brass, and the foot of it of brass, of the lookingglasses of the women assembling…(Exodus 38:8, KJV)
How fascinating! Why mirrors? What could be the significance, Lord, that the women gave their mirrors for the construction of Your tabernacle? Matthew Henry observes that:
1. It should seem these women were eminent and exemplary for devotion…2…Those women that admire their own beauty, are in love with their own shadow, and make the putting on of apparel their chief adorning by which they value and recommend themselves, can but ill spare their looking-glasses; yet these women offered them to God, either (1.) In token of their repentance for the former abuse of them, to the support of their pride and vanity…Or, (2.) In token of their great zeal for the work of the tabernacle…(Matthew Henry’s Commentary, Genesis to Deuteronomy, p. 346)
How many hours have I spent in front of a mirror, curling and smoothing my hair, carefully applying my makeup, checking from one angle and another, inspecting outfit after outfit, considering my appearance, catching my reflection and stopping to look again?
And yet this practice, without notice, continuing in daily life, serves only to make us ill-suited to “spare our looking-glasses” to the work of the Lord…Serves only to make us ill-suited to spare our self-consideration for the work of the Lord.
How strange and subtle, something as simple as mirrors, supporting an almost unnoticeable habit that is ever-so-quietly contrary to denying self and growing in God.
I am glad to have had five years to get out of the habit of looking in the mirror. It’s a lot like a fast. The practice of doing without something prepares us to rightly handle it when we return to it.
For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.(1 Corinthians 13:12, KJV)
Did you ever think there could be so much spiritual significance in something as simple as a mirror?