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Getting Rid of The Mirror

I was 32 years old when I first went to the Reno Open. I was so excited to see the new tennis phenom, Andre Agassi. Every female aged 6 to 60 had a crush on the golden-locked 16-year-old. And I was no different.

Andre captivated even the casual tennis fan. His long mullet, gold earrings and chain, and colorful Nike shoes made him a style icon. He was destined to rocket to the top! His laser-like precision groundstrokes propelled him to number 3 in the world by the time he was 18.

I still remember his commercials for Canon’s Rebel camera with the marketing campaign, “Image is Everything.” With his hair flying around like a lion’s mane, he captured the hearts of millions.

He seemed to have it all, both on and off the court. But when interviewed by Sports Illustrated in 1995, Andre’s comment was heartbreaking and telling. “I don’t think the public has ever had any concept of who I am. They see the cars and the plane, and if they don’t try, they stop there.”

Off the court, there was a much deeper story. When his autobiography, “OPEN,” was printed after he retired, the world was stunned. There was so much more to the story. (If you haven’t read it, I do recommend it!) In the book he revealed to the world that since the age of 19 his iconic mane was actually a wig. After all, what do you do when you are going prematurely bald, and your motto is “Image is Everything?”

The pretending eventually caught up with him. At the 1990 French Open final when Andre was only 20 years old and was supposed to dominate, catastrophe struck! The night before the final, he was in the shower (yes, he wore the wig in the shower) and the wig suddenly began to disintegrate and fall apart in his hands.

Andre’s brother raced around Paris the next day looking for a replacement. But the fit was not comfortable. It was loose, and throughout the match he was distracted with the fear that his wig would fall off. He lost in 4 sets to an aging Andres Gomez, and, at the time, it was considered one of the major upsets of all time. His wig was his worst enemy and fiercest opponent that day.

Andre’s battle was one with himself. Fighting to keep his image, he was mugged by the mirror. But he is not the only one who has dealt with (or continues to deal with) this issue. It affects most of us. My brother was a very handsome young man. I can remember him looking in the mirror at age 50 and saying, “What happened to me?” In my opinion he’s still handsome, but the mirror can hold us captive.

It's tempting to go all out to hide our issues, our imperfections, and our vulnerabilities. It’s difficult for some of us to allow ourselves to be fully seen and known. It’s difficult to age, to have less physical prowess than before, seemingly less beauty. After all, we all yearn to be loved, accepted, wanted, and even celebrated while continuing to wonder if that’s even possible if people REALLY knew our true selves.

As I face the reality of aging, I no longer really WANT to look in the mirror. Yet I do. And I have to remind myself that I am “fearfully and wonderfully made.” (Psalm 139) God doesn’t make mistakes. In that Psalm it continues to tell us that every day of our lives was written in His book even before one of them came to be! He was there when we were knit together in our mother’s womb. What an amazing concept! In God we are loved, we are secure, we are accepted. As a Child of God, we are even the “apple of His eye.” My freckles, my wrinkles, my thinning hair, my extra pounds, my insecurities, and my faults…He loves me just as I am. What a precious thought to ponder during this Lent season.

In the long run, Andre learned not to be captive to the mirror. In 1995, he eventually shaved his head and learned that authenticity and openness were much greater qualities than maintaining an image or clamoring for attention. He proceeded to win 5 additional Grand Slam titles.

Players on the tour recall his gentleness while remaining a fierce competitor, telling of his continuing pursuit of “goodness” as a person. His primary joy is found in those closest to him, and his primary concern is how he treats others and the effect he can have on others. His great compassion for others spurred him to create the Agassi Foundation for Education, Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy, a STEM Program, and a Green our Planet program. He assists with food banks, universities, and first responders in the Las Vegas area where he lives.

Andre chose to put the mirror down. It’s probably time for all of us to do that. And rather than being concerned with our own appearance and prowess, focus on what a difference we can make in the lives of others. After all, living is really about giving yourself. That’s what loving God is all about. It’s boiled down into two commandments….Love God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and love and treat others as you would treat yourself.

It's not a popular concept. But Easter is about the cross. And the cross always was and always has been about death. No matter how pretty our necklaces or earrings are today, the cross meant death. Anyone condemned to the cross was going to die. That’s the fact of the matter. And when Jesus told us that anyone who wants to be known as one of His must take up their cross daily and follow Him. (Matthew 16:24) Not Jesus’ cross…our cross! Daily! We are being called each and every day to die to ourselves. The mirror is no longer important. It’s our hands and feet. It’s our words and actions. It’s our heart. May this season bring a new freedom and joy from the mirror!

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Anne Hope is the award winning author of Bent Pages...a sharp, funny, and deeply inspirational narrative. Kindle version of the award winning, "Bent Pages" is now on sale at Amazon!

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