It is Sunday morning and, as usual, we are running late. I am standing in the bathroom that I share with my daughters, blending concealer and foundation onto my face, the counter lined with cosmetics standing at attention like little toy soldiers. Amelia wanders into the room, still in her pajamas, and watches as I go about the work of putting on my face. She grabs the tube of concealer and I quickly snatch it away- it’s expensive, and it’s only a small tube, and there’s so much that needs to be covered. I have to make it last. “Mommy, I want to wear makeup too,” she says, at first absentmindedly, but becoming more adamant. “Mommy, give me makeup. I need my makeup now.” I hand her the brush- she likes the way the soft bristles feel against her face- and begin applying eye shadow to my eyelids. “Why do you need makeup, baby?” I ask, not sure that I like the color I chose. “I need to look pretty.”
Her words stop me cold. I look at my beautiful, compassionate, funny child and wonder how, at three and half, she already thinks she needs to do something to herself to make herself pretty. “You are already pretty,” I tell her, at a loss for words. She goes back to stroking her cheeks with the brush, every once in a while looking in the mirror. I want to stop and get down on my knees to talk to her, talk with her, but there’s no time. We’re running late, and she’s still in her pajamas.
I want to tell her that she is fiercely and wonderfully made. I want to tell her how she has been made in the image of God, just like her sister, just like me. I want to cup her cheeks in my hands and tell her that I see God in her face, so please don’t cover it up. I want to tell my daughter all these things, but I don’t. Because she is insisting there is not enough makeup on the brush- I tell her that there is (she’s right, there isn’t, in fact there’s none). She demands that I get lipstick for her, and I tell her that it’s lost, which is a lie. I know exactly where it is; tubes of varied hues ranging from the natural color of my lips to a radiant red have all somehow found their way to the bottom of my work bag, each one coated with the powdery flakes of crushed communion wafers, thrown in hastily after serving Eucharist at the nursing home. Lipstick mixed with the body of Christ.
I want to tell her I see God in her face, but then I wonder: why do I cover up the imago Dei in me? When did I stop seeing God in my own reflection? And if I wipe this covering away, what will God show me?