Life was becoming a complicated labyrinth. A door would creak open, and I would slide through, edging my face around to glance in the room, when without warning the door would crash closed. Stumbling back, I would sometimes narrowly avoid an imprint of the doorknob on my stomach. Sometimes I was not so lucky.
Doors lined the hallway, shutting me out: red doors, white-trimmed doors, steel doors, ancient mahogany doors, and dutch doors. But an open door no longer meant opportunity to me; it meant pain. I crouched in the dusky hallway beside the last door that had crushed my toe, despair throbbing through me.
“God!” I rumbled under my breath, but it rolled through the hallway like a thunder clap.
“I don’t understand. I want to trust you, but I still can’t see you. Why are you hiding from me? Why have you abandoned me? You told me to follow you, but every door I think you want me to go through is slammed in my face. I am alone and…” I choked on the sob in my throat, and bent down my head. “I give up.”
Loneliness had a hand on one shoulder, Fear had a hand on the other, and I welcomed my new companions with a torrent of tears as bitter as vinegar running down my face. I wallowed in my prison.
Suddenly, the warm weight of my companions’ hands lifted. I scrambled to my feet in surprise, and I felt a new bitterness rise up within me. Not even Loneliness and Fear would stay with me? But as my eyes searched the darkness to catch sight of where they had gone, I saw a new figure slipping through the gloom.
He was but a little taller than me, an old man with tufts of white hair and a merciful, fatherly smile. He strode over to the door that was directly across the hall from me, a door I had yet to try with carvings of the sun and stars in the dark wood.
He unlocked it with a skeleton key from his pocket, turned the doorknob, and pushed it open. “Come, my child,” he invited.
I hesitated briefly, and then without a backwards glance at the undending hallway that had been my prison for so long, I stepped in. I half expected the door to spring shut on me, but it remained open, and the old man followed me into the room.
It was a huge square room, and the ceiling was one giant skylight. Ribbons of yellow sunshine cascaded into the room and warmed the hardwood floor. But what drew my open-mouthed awe was the walls. Nearly every square inch of wall space was covered with a mirror.
I craned my neck back, and still could not see the end of the mirrors. I began to wander the room, trailing my fingers along the frame of each exquisite mirror. There was a large oval one with an ornate scrollwork frame. Next to it hung a beautiful mirror with brass vines clustering all around it and delicate leaves and buds that seemed almost to turn to the sunshine that swept the room. Square mirrors, diamond mirrors, frameless mirrors, mirrors as large as a table…there must have been thousands of mirrors lining the walls wherever I turned.
But as I backed up to the center of the room and swiveled to take in all the mirrors at a glance, that same old feeling of confusion began to overtake me, because I realized with a pang that every mirror was useless. They were all so old, so antiqued, that a reflection was nearly impossible to make out. The room was flooded with light, but every mirror was dulled with the patina of time and freckled with spots and scratches.
“What is wrong, child?” The old man asked from the doorway where he still stood.
I turned to him. “This is a beautiful room,” I began. “But why is there this great collection of mirrors that are so old and in need of repair? What is the point?”
“Why? What do you see in the mirrors?” The man asked pointedly.
I stepped forward to a tiny silver mirror with an inscription in a foreign language winding around its frame. I squinted at the mirror and could just make out the shape of a face—I could hardly even tell if it was my face, for it looked nothing like me, but I decided that it was merely a distorted silhouette.
Still staring at the mirror, I replied, “I see the silhouette of a face, but nothing else.”
And then, it dawned on me. I turned to the old man, excitement filling my voice. “Is this my mission? Am I the one who must fix these mirrors, repair them until they reflect God’s light with perfection?”
The man smiled a benediction upon me. “No, no. These mirrors are not broken, they are merely an enigma. It is rather your eyes that must be repaired. Do you remember when you were a little girl? When you were a child, you spoke as a child. You understood as a child, you thought as a child; but when you became a woman, you put away childish things.”
The man came over to me, put his hands gently on my shoulders, and turned me back to the mirror, and I stared into its darkness again. “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, like your understanding as a toddler. But then we shall see face to face. Now you know in part, but then you shall know just as your friends know you.[i]”
As he spoke those words the mirror before me, and indeed every other mirror in the room, began to clear. The flood of sunlight from above washed over them and it was as if a thousand stars were gleaming from the walls. Then the light intensified and grew together as one until I could hardly see the mirror before me any more because of the great light that covered it.
I shielded my eyes and stumbled back in astonishment, for the light was becoming a wall of light, and the wall itself was becoming one great skylight. I turned to the man to ask him what was happening, but he was no longer there. I glanced back to the skylight, and face to face with me was Jesus Christ Himself. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire. His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength[ii].
Electric shock coursed through my body and I suddenly knew: His was the face I had seen silhouetted in the mirror. But why had I seen His face when I had been looking into a mirror? The mystery and beauty overtook me, and I fell to my trembling knees before Him.
“My Lord,” was all I could whisper. “Why did I see your face in the mirror?”
He spoke, and His voice was as the sound of many waters[iii]. “You, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.[iv]”
I lifted my head to look at Him, and as I did, I was back in my hallway, sitting where I had been wallowing only a few minutes earlier. I scrambled to get up and something clattered to the floor from my lap. With surprise, I realized that it was the tiny silver mirror with the inscription that I had gazed into on the wall. I bent to pick it up, fingering the scrolling frame, and as I stared into it I saw the silhouette of Christ that I had seen earlier. Although it was just as dim, in just as old of a mirror, I knew my eyes were repaired, for I could just catch a glimpse of His glory.
And the inscription that had been foreign back in the room of mirrors now stood out to me as clearly as though the old man were repeating it again: “Now you see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face.”
Tears filled my eyes, not the vinegar tears of before, but cleansing tears, and I whispered, "I will praise you, Lord, even in the hallway."
With those words still on my lips I realized that the hallway was no longer dark. As I lifted my head in the new light I could see what I hadn’t been able to see before. The walls were lined with mirrors, of every shape and size.