I attended a wonderful family wedding this past weekend and enjoyed great company and delicious food along with an eye-opening perspective worthy of Lenten reflection that came from — of all places — the restroom!
Standing at the sink, washing my hands, minding my own business — which I try to do on a fairly regular basis — I had to laugh (or else I might have cried) at the way in which I was brought into a conversation.
Next to me was an older woman — surely much older than myself — sort of reprimanding two young girls for the stiletto heels they were wearing and in which they could barely stand. The older woman concluded her words to these two young women with a harumph and this line, “Well, you will see when you are older that you won’t choose to suffer for fashion!” at which point the woman turned, looked me squarely in the eye, and said, “Right?”
I admit that this was one of those very few times in life when I have been speechless. I looked at my reflection in the mirror and tried to quickly figure out why she felt I could support her statement about age and lack of fashion concerns. My outfit wasn’t anything that had been hanging in my closet for years and so I knew it was somewhat fashionable. My makeup was done nicely — no 70’s frosty blue eye shadow to reflect my high school years — and my new hair cut was quite nice. Yes, I have lived a fair amount of decades and yet I’m often told I don’t look my age. So when this woman turned to me to confirm that an older person doesn’t suffer for fashion I simply remained silent. My mind raced with thoughts: Was she suggesting I looked old? Was she suggesting that my appearance said I didn’t care about fashion? Was she suggesting I was old AND didn’t care about fashion?
I giggled my best “girl” laugh — intended to sound young and fashionable — and left the restroom. The whole incident was actually quite funny and I shared it that night with some relatives — all of whom appreciated both the humor and the underlying message: we don’t always see ourselves as others do.
Lent is a time of reflection and, ultimately, seeing ourselves as the good Lord sees us. We do the things that show God our earnest desire to foster a deeper relationship with Christ — we sacrifice things we love, we spend more time in Scripture study, we pray more, we watch more EWTN and listen to more Catholic radio — but do we ask Him to allow us to see ourselves as He sees us?
Sometimes, when we do all the right “things” we get a sense of accomplishment that fosters a false sense of self. I know that when I spend time in Scripture study, I do feel better about my journey. And that time is well spent. However, until I can see myself as God sees me I might not fully realize, let’s say, that the ½ hour I gave to the rosary was only the tip of the iceberg as far as what I needed to give to prayer.
It’s like at the wedding, where I had one view of myself and a complete stranger had quite another. This isn’t to say that my view wasn’t somewhat on target but having another’s perspective helped mine become more focused. My clothes, while fashionable, were far different than what the young girls were wearing. My hair, while nicely cut, wasn’t hanging in long tresses down my back. My shoes managed to be both sensible and yet somewhat fashionable — a far cry from the spike heels worn by the girls in the restroom.
The next morning I could better understand why this woman had looked to me for confirmation. Yes, I might be holding up well, but I was much closer to her age than I was to the young girls to whom she was speaking. And, I have to admit, she was right. When we get older we just don’t suffer for fashion the way young girls do! It may have taken awhile, but I came around to admitting the truth.
As Lent begins to wind down, it is probably a good idea to ask God to reveal to us how He sees us; but, first we must be willing to put aside our own perceptions. Then, and only then, will we be able to fully understand how each step in our Lenten journey can bring us closer to Christ.
Christ is, after all, the truth that sets us free!