Have you ever read a sentence that hit you right between the eyes? One that brought so much truth you felt the air “oof” out of your lungs? One that lit up an area of your life like a high-intensity spotlight? And have you experienced that with a sentence you’ve read before, but this time God is driving a message deep into your heart?
For me, there’s a sentence in Chris Coursey’s book Transforming Fellowship that fits that description to a T. I was re-reading this book, just minding my own business, and on page 215, I saw this sentence:
“We see ourselves through the lens of how we think others perceive us.”
God designed our brains so that the face of another person is a sort of mirror, showing us how we appear to them. Hence, “we see ourselves through the lens of how others see us.” However, depending on the security or insecurity of our early relationships, our brains may distort the message of the mirror, so that “we see ourselves through the lens of how we think others perceive us.”
My mind was whirring as I thought of the self-esteem issues that plagued me in childhood and continued well into my adult years. Into what kind of mirror had I been gazing? My parents were wonderful people, but they were quiet, avoided the spotlight, and wanted to fit in, while I was outgoing, loud, inquisitive, friendly, a tomboy who was prone to make messes. As I meditated on the vague sense of rejection I had perceived from my parents, I realized it was just that – a perception. I was looking in a funhouse mirror when my sense of self was formed – things were distorted.
When I asked Jesus what He wanted me to know about this, I sensed that I should go back further, because the distortions didn’t begin with me. My parents were once children looking in the funhouse mirrors of their parents and community members.
Jesus gently reminded me of my mother growing up on a small farm in rural Alabama during the Great Depression, being the “country bumpkin” who was bused into town for school. She was smart and incredibly hardworking, the first in her family to graduate high school, even though every year she had to begin school after harvest and drop out before planting season. How did the stigma of being the country girl affect her when she married my father, who was a NASA scientist and moved to Huntsville, with the highest education level in the state?
Compassion washed over me as I realized that what I sensed as rejection was my mother’s fear that my oversized personality would cause me not to fit in, to be hurt by my peers. Echoes of “country bumpkin” rang in her head when my loud antics drew looks from the neighbors, or I begged to wear overalls to school. My mother wasn’t just the carefully controlled woman I saw – a talented seamstress, artist, cook, gardener, and hostess; she was a young woman who was afraid she would never measure up, that her daughter’s boisterous behavior would draw attention, that the fact of her country upbringing would betray her and subject her to ridicule. She was a little girl for whom the funhouse mirror was no fun.
How do we stop this distorted funhouse mirror legacy? We can begin by growing our relational capacity using relational skills 1: Share Joy, 2: Simple Quiet, and 4: Create Appreciation. As we grow our capacity (the ability to stay relationally connected) with these skills, we’ll be better equipped to recognize the distorted perceptions that feel so true to us.
The relational skill that cuts right to the root of the distortion, however, is Skill 13: See What God Sees. As we build our connection with Him, He will reveal our true selves to us, and as He did for me, He’ll show us what’s behind the perceptions we thought were so true. When He showed me my mother’s heart, how it had been wounded when she was young, and how she was trying to protect me from that kind of wound, it changed a lifetime of perceptions for me.
What is in the mirror of God’s face toward us? As I asked Him about this, He brought to mind the blessing that Chris Coursey speaks over us each day at THRIVE training:
“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.” – Numbers 6:22-26
The Lord’s face shines His joy on each of us, He gives us grace (sees us as special and favorite), He looks at us and pours out peace into our lives. As we learn to connect with Him and sense His delight in us, our distorted mirrors of self-image become clear and our view of others aligns with his everlasting love and compassion.
When we see what God sees, instead of feeling critical, hurt, fearful or angry at those around us, we can have a compassionate curiosity about what funhouse mirror might be driving their behavior. We can build joy, practice rest and appreciation, and partner with God in healing the painful, distorted mirrors we and our friends have been gazing into for so long.
Would you like to learn more about how to do this? Join me for our Relational Building Blocks event August 3rd – Knowing God’s Heart. We will learn and practice some skills together that allows us to see life through His eyes rather than our own flawed perspective. Register below!