Glance Then Gaze

“So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.” 2 Corinthians 3:18

“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.” 2 Corinthians 4:16

My body has been through the proverbial wringer for almost a year now. It started in earnest back in November when I had a lumpectomy to remove what we thought were only two tumors. It turned out there were five plus cancer in the lymph nodes. What I and my doctors thought would be pretty straightforward got a lot more complex. Since then I’ve been through four months of chemotherapy and then two weeks ago a double mastectomy. In about five weeks I’ll start a course of radiation. Sometime next year I’ll have reconstructive surgery.

I never thought I was a vain person until I got breast cancer. And while I am doing very well and it looks like I will soon be cancer free, the body I’d always lived in as a woman has changed significantly. I’ve been a long distance runner for almost fifteen years and that exercise has kept me fit and able to eat pretty much anything I’ve wanted. But in 2022 there’s been very little exercise, no meeting up with friends before dawn to do an easy 6 miles, no ability to strength train, no marathon training plans. Chemotherapy made my hair fall out and not just on my head. As I looked in the mirror each day I was confronted with a face without eyebrows and eyelashes. It also threw me into early menopause and as a result the pounds started creeping up as I was weighed weekly before infusions.

As my body changed I finally realized how much I was examining and judging what I saw in the mirror, how often I weighed myself, and how I used those things to measure my own worth. Even during my battle with cancer, I couldn’t stop being hard on the person staring back at me. I had been blind to it for so long because it was easy to stay at a weight that was acceptable in my eyes. To look at me, you probably wouldn’t notice, but that doesn’t mean this sin of vanity didn’t grip as tight, asking me to serve the image I gazed at in the mirror or the number I saw on the scale.

God has helped me grow ever so slowly in contentment as I’ve waged this battle against vanity and the pride that goes along with it, but the thought of the double mastectomy tempted me to fear. It seems silly, but I wasn’t really fearing the surgery or the pain or even the cancer! I was more anxious and fearful about what my body would look like when it was over. How would I react when I looked down?

Before I was wheeled into the operating room, one of the pastors at our church and a dear friend came to pray with me and my husband. As he prayed I was struck by two words that he used: glance and gaze. He was praying for me to have an eternal perspective. But God used those words like a scalpel to my soul. Those two words – glance and gaze – have become a new tool in this fight against vanity and taking pride in how I look.

Glance at your body, but gaze into the face of Christ. Glance at your incisions as they heal but gaze at the scars in his hands and his side which brought an even greater and deeper healing. If we gaze intently at our bodies but only glance at Christ, we will be distracted by our many flaws and be left with disappointment. But if we gaze at Christ while only glancing at our bodies, we will be transfixed by his perfect love and never be put to shame.

As women we are so tempted to gaze intently at our bodies as they age, and some strive against time to make themselves look younger. But it’s a fruitless task, a losing battle. But gazing at the Lord and looking intently at his glory is no fruitless task. When we look wonderingly at his perfections we do change, just not in a way that can be seen in the mirror or measured on a scale. The mirror and scale only reflect and measure the shell that is our physical body, the part of us that will soon return to dust. But the very real part of us, the part that is eternal, is on the inside. The Bible calls it the inner man. And as we spend more time fixing our eyes on Christ, and on the things that are eternal, this inner man is renewed and gets stronger even as the outer shell that is our body wastes away.

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