Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Mirror Mirror

James says that a man who does hears God's word but does not follow it is like a man who studies his face in the mirror, then turns away and can't remember what he looks like.

Have you ever forgotten what you looked like?

Yes and no.  I don't think James literally means what a man looks like; I think he's speaking more about how a man sees himself.  For a lot of us, if we've not focused our eyes on the truth of who we are, we fall into one of two categories of self-memory.

Either we see only our flaws...or none of them.

We turn away and think about the growing zit on the side of our nose, the place where we over-plucked an eyebrow, the place where we haven't plucked at all, the scar on our left temple, the birthmark on our cheek, the dimple that is so cute if we smile quite right but we suddenly remember it's been awhile.  We think of the things that we're sure others are staring at, things that set us apart and make us somehow different, somehow lesser than those around us.  Unless we're looking right at them and seeing these cosmetic differences in the bigger picture, they often seem like the big picture themselves.

On the other hand, there are those among us who turn away and are absolutely convinced they're Fabio.  They are runway-ready and cover photo-worthy, and you'd be hard-pressed to convince them otherwise.  (You see how I went from "we" in the last paragraph to "they" in this one?  This has never been my particular problem.  So if this is yours, I'm sorry.  I find you absolutely bewildering and thus, a part of "they.")  These people see right past their flaws and embrace what's perfect about them, which without an honest sight, kind of seems like "everything."

Of course, James wasn't really talking about appearances.  He was talking about a broader understanding of ourselves.  He was talking about people who don't see the beautiful mingling of created and broken, perfected and flawed, good and bad, right and wrong, right and left in their own reflection.  He was talking about people who don't have an honest view of themselves because they are not intent on seeing fully who they are.

Fully...who God has created them to be, with all of their holes and hiccups and hopes and wholeness.

He was talking about people who forget to treat others with grace because they've turned and no longer see their own need for the same.  He was talking about people who turn away from grace because they are disgusted by themselves and see only their unworthiness.  He was talking about people who only see themselves as purely "good" or wholly "bad" and whose sight cannot remember the holy mix of both that is in them, that makes them who they are.

Our inability to remember that we are wholly this holy mixture of created and broken challenges the way we relate to others, to ourselves, and to God, which only further blinds us to the interplay of our good and bad qualities.  The more we see ourselves as flawed, the more we wonder how God could ever love us, and the more we question this God of love and what His intentions are.  Our faith wavers, our joy fades, and pretty soon, we're looking in the mirror and can't even see the truth anymore.  All we see is what we always see when we close our eyes or turn away, except now it is staring right back at us and we don't blame God for being far away.

Or we see ourselves as perfect, and we wonder what need we have for this God.  We think any venture we make into the realm of faith will draw us away from our harmony and into some tumultuous scene of God's plan, and who has room for that when things are already going so well?  We pull further away until we find no future in faith.  We turn, and we walk right out of God's arms.  Then when the day comes that maybe we could really use a God, we wonder where this one was all our lives, and we're bitter at a God we think abandoned us...when it was we who abandoned Him.

We have to learn to look in the mirror and embrace all that we are, whatever looks good and whatever looks bad.  We have to remember that what we're seeing reflected is God's glory in a fallen world; we were created in His image, and regardless of our battle scars, we still reflect that.  When we find that, we find a greater depth in ourselves and an ability to love beyond what we remember when it seems we can't see.

And we can't help but love the God who created this, who created us.  The God whose glory we see reflected somehow in us...that the world is watching in us, as if in a mirror, that they might see Him reflected, too.  That they might see God...

Let us never forget that God is what we look like.

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