As the name of the blog suggests, I'm all about looking through the windshield. Eyes forward and all that. But in looking through, I sometimes forget to look into.
Case in point: the other day when I was getting ready to shave, the reflection greeting me in the mirror showed me something I had never noticed before; namely, the "peppering" of my facial hair. And I have to tell you, I was NOT prepared to see this. I think I actually just stared dumbfounded at the long, grey hairs prominently featured in my beard. Once I composed myself and choked back the shock, my first thought was "Seriously? SERIOUSLY?!? Come ON - this is totally not fair! What hair I have left should be granted the dignity to stay its natural color!"
And then I raised my gaze a couple of inches...WRINKLES?!? Okay, more like "laugh lines," but still... I'm only 41, for crying out loud. If the eyes are the window to the soul, mine clearly need some new sealant applied to them.
Now, I'm not so vain as to take drastic measure to try and stem the tide of time in terms of my physical appearance. I know - intellectually - that as I get older, my body is supposed to reflect these changes that naturally occur. And I also know that some of my sleeping and extended recreation choices have undoubtedly contributed to these cracks in my face and changing of the color guard in my follicles. And I know that the little firecracker I am I charge of has caused in some ways for my body to catch up to representing its biological age.
But really, what made me more concerned than anything else was that discovering these signs of the times made me wonder when the last time I actually LOOKED at myself in the mirror was.
Back when I was in high school and later in college, I cared more for my appearance. I mean, the product wasn't going to get into my hair all on its own. I needed to constantly check and re-check myself to make sure that I looked presentable to go out into society. After I graduated from college - minus the fashion sabbatical that was grad school - I always monitored my appearance: check the tie, check the shirt, smooth the wrinkles, etc. Professional appearance mattered. When I would go out socially, yeah, it was important to look good, but slightly less so than when I was "younger;" in my early and mid twenties, being comfortably casual was fine when meeting friends out.
Now? If I shave more than once a week, it's because I have to "look good" when meeting people - which also translates to "wear the cleanest pair of jeans." Part of my fashion apathy is honestly out of necessity; when wrangling a toddler and competing with my wife every morning for the one tiny bathroom we have, I yield to those whose lungs are louder and who need to go make money at work. And by the time I re-enter the work force and start to wear the legion of "dress clothes" hanging in my closet, I'm hoping that I can get away with claiming I'm trying to be retro. Cargo shorts are God's way of telling the stay-at-home dad that He loves him - and that he can carry a juice cup, snack, action figure or two, phone, wallet, keys, and transport random rocks and twigs discovered that are "so cool" and have to come home with us without looking like a pack animal.
My fellow stay at home parents will get this. We let this part of our identity slide, because it's easy to do so. I still care about looking good for Ashley, but it's care by rote. I can't tell the last time I actually stared in the mirror while brushing my teeth, because I always have my eyes cast towards the impending crash, cry, or catastrophe that might come from Kai's room. When I shave my head, trim my beard, wash my face (and now use moisturizer...crap...), I might be standing in front of a mirror, but I'm not watching myself. Because I've seen this face for the better part of four decades, I think I should know what it looks like and feels like.
Evidently, I don't.
So now I stop and think. I think about what people see when they look at me. I think about my ragamuffin appearance and what I reflect. Admittedly, as I sit and type this in a local coffee shop, I'm wearing frazzled cargo shorts and a Tshirt with bleach stains on it, so I'm not suddenly throwing myself on the mercies of "What Not To Wear" and transforming myself into a stay-at-home fashionista.
But more than anything, this wake-up reflection left me wondering: if in my mind, I still see myself as two decades younger than I am, and I think I still have that look about me, have I become equally comfortably numb in thinking how I reflect my beliefs? My faith? My actions and words? I see myself as a Christ follower, but what do I reflect?
What do other people see in me?
And what do I need to do to insure that a true reflection is shown and not some pale imitation?