Well trained from the moment my chubby legs could scramble up the bathroom sink to peer into the overhead mirror, I remained faithful to my mother’s schooling: “A woman never leaves the house without her face on.”
At 4 years old, this seemed like a strange concept. Did she peel it off at night, only to glue it back on in the morning? Being the eternal snoop, I determined to find out.
Spying on her every move throughout the day, her beauty captivated me. Unlike the other mommies who kept their hair in pink sponge curlers and wore stained, frumpy housecoats, my mom was stunning with her flaming auburn hair, sparkling blue eyes and lush cherry lips.
Then one day I caught her – au naturel.
“Yikes! Where did my pretty mommy go?” I wanted to cry. The vision before me was a dark, hollowed-eyed, frizzy-haired replica of the Bride of Frankenstein. No wonder she needed her face on.
But that moment of fear went deeper than worrying she had become some zombie from a horror film. My internal unraveling ignited from the terror that one day I’d look just like that.
So began a lifetime fascination with the artistic application of war paint. I applied it minimally in my teens but added thicker layers as time went on. Other than the dog and an unlucky few, no one has seen the real me in years, until recently.
“Jackie, I challenge you to go one day without any makeup,” my friend Libby Ackley dared.
Libby wasn’t pretending to be one of those mean girls in my youth who wanted a good laugh at my expense. Instead, we were on a journey exploring our innermost connection with our Creator this past Lent.
“Think how Christ suffered for us,” she said. “Maybe we should try to repay the favor by doing something out of our comfort zones for Him.”
How silly, I thought at first. If I were He, I’d prefer I kept the stuff on. But never saying no to a dare, I took the challenge.
One morning, after scrubbing my face clean, I stood before the magnifying mirror where I created my daily transformation. Staring at the bare image, I was horrified to see how my skin had aged from just the day before. But knowing this contest would mean nothing if I stayed indoors, I ventured out to test the reaction from the general public.
Initially, I found myself looking down as shoppers moved by in the grocery store. Gradually lifting my face, I was finally at eye level and proceeded to act as if all were right with the world. I smiled at passersby, despite my mounting insecurity.
What I discovered that day was that nobody cared. No one ran away, and faces smiled back just as they always did at a welcoming gesture.
While difficult, I’ll forever be grateful for this experiment in sacrifice. This is not to say I’m going to stop exploring new colors on my eyes and lips. Heaven forbid! But it’s another reminder that when I embrace my basic divine nature in its complete and perfect form, without all the bells and whistles, I find a sense of freedom that breaks through my rigid, mental limitations.
Allowing this feeling of peace to permeate, I can then explode in color, just as spring does after a quiet winter of self-reflection – only this time it comes from a place of creativity, not from self-limiting beliefs. Going forward, I plan to let those go and get back to discovering the blank and perfect slate within.