It happened during one of my visits to Midstate Correctional Facility where I occasionally go to lead a spiritual session with the inmates. I began this particular gathering with a meditation based on an ancient invocation: “Jesus, Lover of every human face.”
During the sharing, I heard a very poignant story from the guy who was sitting on my immediate right. He told of how for many years he would not look at himself in a mirror. He said he didn’t know why he wouldn’t – he just couldn’t bring himself to do it. He even grew a beard so he wouldn’t have to shave, which would’ve required looking at himself in a mirror.
Yet that very morning, another inmate had challenged him on this – “I don’t understand why that’s a problem for you – you’re a good looking guy. What’s wrong?” And so that very morning he’d forced himself to spend some time looking at himself in the mirror, and he was able to accept what he saw, and he thought of how God loved him. And that very morning, he had shaved off his beard.
“It just blows my mind” he said, “that I came here for the first time tonight, and you start with this meditation on how Jesus loves my face!” And it just blows my mind too, when I think about that brother, sitting there on my right with his clean-shaven face, and his big smile, and his really amazing story – a man who had come home to himself at last, and seen himself as beloved.