As a child, I confess I slightly dreaded Lent. I suppose many children likely do, knowing they must choose something to give up for forty days (probably their favorite candy). But with every year that flies by, more and more do I come to understand and appreciate that Lent is not so much about giving up as it a gift to receive.
For me, it is the opportunity to allow God to draw me deeper into His gaze. Recently He revealed to me that the struggle with pride versus humility derives from a lack of focus—lack of focus on Him. As Father Marc Foley says in his book The Love That Keeps Us Sane:
“…we can only see ourselves in the eyes of another. As creatures made in the image and likeness of God, this ultimately means that we will find our true identity only in the face of God who mirrors back to us our deepest self.”
When I focus on how others see me, or on how I see myself, I tend to ricochet between vanity and self-hatred. But when I peer into the eyes of my God, suddenly all I see is His love, a love so strong that it sucks me deeper into His gaze, like a maelstrom, and purges away every other opinion but His. And His “opinion” is the truth, the unchanging truth that I am beautiful—not because of anything I’ve done, but because of who I am. Made in His image.
But what about all my ugly flaws? The answer lies, of course, in His eyes, which mirror back to me who I truly am, my deepest self. I realize that those flaws are actually not part of me, as I am tempted to believe, but a detraction from me. Anything in me that is not of God is not me. A crack in the glass is not part of the glass itself, but a missing part, emptiness where there ought to be fullness. Again and again, I fracture the image, weak creature that I am—but so too does God tirelessly restore the image to its fullness. I am beautiful.
And because I am beautiful, made in His image, I need only be who I truly am to reveal Him to others. Why do we agonize over how to make a difference in the world when all He asks is that you be truly you? As my father says, if we could see with spiritual eyes, the geese would have halos, because they are fulfilling exactly what they were created to be. They praise God simply by being.
“The glory of God is man fully alive, and the life of man is the vision of God.”
Our greatest feat is to be ourselves. That is enough, because the soul that is fully revealed to the world cannot be ignored for its beauty, its brightness. Is it not often easiest to see God in creation, that element of the world that cannot help but live according to its design? But how much more wondrous to see God in another human soul, knowing how difficult it is to be who we truly are.
May Lent be a time for us to consciously cast aside the opinions of others, of ourselves, and focus only on God, who will restore us, allowing the world to see His face in our own.