Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

"But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like.”
James 1:22-24

I remember, as a little tiny girl, being enamored by mirrors. I could sit and look in a hand mirror and make all sorts of silly faces and practice facial expressions. I also remember being at an amusement park and walking through a house of mirrors. Some of the mirrors made me look taller and skinnier than I was. Some made me look shorter and heavier than I was. And others made my body look like an “S.” That was the first time I remember being uncomfortable looking in mirrors, and found myself wondering how true or distorted the reflections I were.  

By the time I was in high school I had developed an eating disorder and what I saw in the mirror had become very distorted, but this time the distortions were all in my mind. No matter how low my weight got, the reflection in the mirror appeared round to me. Even when there was no fat on my body, only protruding bones, I saw a round body. When we studied the book of James the above verses with the mirror analogy caught my eye.  

The more I thought about the mirror concept, the more I realized that I and many of the women I know, have distorted “mirrors” we have used to try to find out who we are and what our value is. Our distorted "mirrors" may include physical things like beauty, weight, body type. This is dangerous in that beauty is not really just a physical thing, it goes much deeper than that. For there is a emotional, psychological, and spiritual aspect to beauty as well. Our health, our attitudes and mindset, our hormonal cycle, the amount of rest we get, and our culture play a big part in how we view ourselves.

Relationships can also be false "mirrors." When we were little children, we looked to parents to get an idea of who we were. We needed their love, approval, and care to survive and grow into healthy adults. At some point, we were to individuate from them and become independent individuals with our own dreams, opinions, tastes, thoughts, and emotions. If we experienced wounds from our caregivers, we may be still seeking approval from them or other people we use as surrogates. Using these people as “mirrors” by which we define ourselves is so unhealthy and can even become a form of idolatry. For when those people treat us well, we see ourselves as lovable, capable, significant, and worthwhile. But, when they mistreat us, we tend to see ourselves as unlovable, defective, stupid, too much or too little, invisible, and insignificant. We often don’t realize when we are mistreated, ignored, or overlooked, it is about another's heart issues; not a statement about us. As adults, we can refuse to let others define us, dictate what we think or feel about ourselves, or show us what our potential is.

Other false "mirrors" might be a certain level of education, a status in the community, a particular job, or maybe even a desired ministry. Again, these things are fleeting. When we use them to determine our value and worth, we are using distorted mirrors. So, if we aren’t supposed to use these things as mirrors, what are we supposed to use? The verses above give us the answer. The Word of God is the only accurate mirror we have, because it is written by our Creator. There are several ways we can find out who we are in the Word. First, the Word makes it clear we were created in His likeness. If we are to be His image bearers, we can gain a lot of insight in who God created us to be by studying about Him.

Second, God’s story tells us about our sin and our need of redemption. We see ourselves mirrored in the lives of the men and women in the Scriptures. Their weaknesses and their sin mirrors ours. Their struggles with pride, fear, and deep longings painfully show us our own. Reading the Bible is no different than being in a real time support group. The first time I walked into a support group, I remember thinking, “I don’t want to be like these women.” Sadly, I was just like them, broken, dysfunctional, and struggling. The parts of them I didn’t like were merely a reflection of the things I didn't like in myself. The same is true of the men and women in the Bible. When I first read about Elijah’s depression, I harshly judged him as weak, especially after his victory on Mount Carmel until I realized I, too, sink into depression after I have fought and won big spiritual battles. When I first read about Peter’s impetuosity, I judged him harshly until I stuck my foot in my mouth an hour later. When I read about the woman at the well, I judged her harshly for having been divorced so many times, until I realized that even though I haven't gone through a divorce, I do have a string of broken relationships in my own life. When I first read about James and John fighting over who would get to sit at the Lord’s right hand, I judged them as immature until I realized I still long to have someone value me above other people. It’s cool that God chose to not only include people’s strengths, victories, and powerful words; He included their weaknesses, failures, and the dumb things that popped out of their mouths. He not only included the great acts accomplished by people driven by faith; He included their defeats that were characterized by unbelief.

Third, God clearly tells us in His Word, who we are--we are His redeemed people. We are eternally loved, accepted, and adopted. We are ambassadors, capable, chosen, and delighted in. We are delivered from evil, forgiven for our sin, friends of the eternal God, empowered by His Spirit, free to serve Him, and gifted to fulfill our place in the body. We are never too much and never not enough. We are satisfied, significant, victorious, vindicated, and strengthened by His power for all that comes our way. If we can grasp and believe these truths instead of looking to "false mirrors" to define us, our lives would be so much richer. Our words, actions, and reactions will flow out of filled hearts rather than empty, needy hearts looking desperately for fulfillment. As Beth Moore puts it in her Bible study, Believing God, “We are who God says we are!”

So, I wonder if you, like me, are sick and tired of looking in false mirrors. I wonder if you are looking to others or to things to determine who you are or your value and worth as a person. How different our lives can be when we look to His Word and grasp His love, His redemption, and His transforming power in our lives. Let's spend time with the Lord, asking Him to reveal all of the false mirrors we have a tendency to use and then look solely to the Creator and His Word to get a true perspective of who we are created to be. 

Prayer: Abba, we confess we have used many false mirrors over the course of our lives we have tried to determine who we are, what our significance is in this life, and our value and worth as women. We praise You for we are fearfully and wonderfully made. You have redeemed us at great price and in You our lives are and will always have value. Help us to never forget we are truly loved, accepted, and delighted in. How comforting to know, your ears are always turned towards us and we can come boldly to your Throne of Grace, knowing we are not irritating interruptions to You. Nor, will we ever be too much and too little too be loved by You. Thank you for Your redeeming love.

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Several years ago I realized that I often sped through my Scripture reading and gave it little thought. Yet, when I had meaningful conversations with friends or family members I replayed them over and over in my head. One day it occurred to me, that if I thought more about what God says in his word that I would not only know more about Him, but I would come to know Him in a personal way. I would know more about His thoughts, His character, His intentions, His passions, and His actions. So, I began to take one verse at a time and think on it and then journal about it. At the time I was served as a volunteer in youth ministry and shared my “Thoughts on God” with those girls. For a while I have been rewriting and posting them on this blog. I have realized when I am in the Word or move through my day focusing on God's presence that I have wonderful opportunities to Meet God in the Everyday. The Everyday can include storms, blessings, hard things, scary things, exciting things...just any where, anyplace, any time. I hope that you will be able to engage with what I write with both your head and your heart. I also hope you will be challenged to love, trust, and know the God of the Scriptures. It is my prayer that as you read you will experience Him at a deeper level and share pieces of your journey in the comments. It is my desire that we form a safe community of believers who pursue the God who loves us radically, eternally, and without reserve. As a precious pastor once told me, "Don't forget, Wendy, God is Good!" I find myself compelled by His Goodness and His Love to share so others can know Him through all the ups and downs of life. Please feel free to dialogue back and to share how each passage impacts you. If if there is a passage you would like me to write on or if you would like to be a guest blogger, please let me know. I am just learning to navigate this blog and appreciate the kind comments you have made in the past...I promise I will even try to respond if you leave a note. If you are blessed please share the blog with friends!