Have you ever looked at a mirror?
I realize that in our modern time that probably sounds like an idiotic question. I don’t mean, “have you ever looked at your own reflection in a mirror?” What I mean is, have you ever looked at a mirror and thought about what it is and what purpose it serves.
I took two semesters of Physics in college (yes it was as bad as you think it would be). I was gifted (forced to learn) the knowledge of how many things work in this world. I learned things ranging from why the apple hit Isaac Newton (head trauma is result of the pursuit of science) to how lightbulbs work (black magic).
In one of our classes we talked about how mirrors work. The basic gist of it is that mirrors are made up of a material that takes in light and bounces it back. That’s why when you look straight into a mirror you see your reflection (supposing the lights are on and you are not a main character in the Twilight series).
Giving off a reflection is what a basic mirror does, but let’s think about mirrors a little more poetically (strap in because this B.A. in Chemistry is trying his hand at poetry).
A mirror is something that reveals to the user something about themselves.
Mirror, Mirror on the _______
By this definition, a mirror can be a lot of things. It could be an X-ray showing you the broken bone (if the pain wasn’t indication enough). It can be a story or a song that reveals deep emotion within the depths of your being. It can even be others and their opinion of you.
What’s interesting about all of these mirrors is that they all have varying level of trustworthiness. Just take people for example. Who’s opinions of your faults or strengths do you value more, a two year-old child whose toy you just took away, or a long-time, devoted friend? To use a youthful analogy, do you trust the posed Instagram picture or the tagged Facebook one? (Goodbye readers over the age of 30).
With all of these mirrors of varying reliability vying for our attention and demanding that we shape our opinion based upon their revelation of ourselves, how does one accurately view one’s self?
Depends on who you ask.
If you ask a therapist, she might tell you that the biggest problem in modern person’s life is low self esteem. The client must cease gazing into mirrors that reveal the negative parts of himself or herself and reorient their gaze to more positive mirrors. One must develop high self-esteem by focusing on what’s good in them and looking past the bad.
Ask a religious person and they might tell you that one’s moral performance is the best place to place one’s view of one’s self. A person sees themselves in light of some set of rules of rights and wrongs and that person’s value is based off of his ability to measure up to those standards. Do good, you’re a good person, do bad, and you are a bad person.
Talk to a free spirit and they’ll tell you one’s view of themselves is based off of liberty. The mirror is the level to which one has escaped from any chains that hold them down, chains of location, sexuality, careers, rules, hatred, negativity, etc… One does (is) well when one is free from any and all constraints.
Ask a politician it’s their influence; a parent, their child’s love and success; an athlete, their ability; a musician, their performance.
We could go on and on about what mirrors people use to view one’s self. Before this post gets ridiculously long, let me make a bit of a bold claim:
None of these mirrors are very trustworthy.
Do You See What I See? Probably Not.
Look at each and every one of the mirrors listed above. Each one bases a view of one’s self off of either one’s own perspective or the perspective of others. Both perspectives fall short. Can anyone truly make a claim about the value of themselves or another when so much is unknown? With limited human perspectives, how could we possibly have an accurate view of ourselves or anyone else for that matter?
We are so prone to forget, so prone to look at the world through rose-colored (or some sad-colored) glasses, to be an optimist or pessimist, never a realist. Try to remember what you were like 5 years ago. Do you think that person had the world figured out? You probably thought you did back then, and now when you look back you think, “how could have I been so immature or naïve?”
Any mirror based off of another or one’s own outlook on himself can never be totally trustworthy because of mankind’s limited-ness. There is no perfect mirror that can show one the true view of themself. Except one.
The True Mirror
The Bible is the only mirror in this world that can give one a true perspective on himself or herself. It’s the only mirror in this world that is not based off of a limited, human point-of-view. The Bible is the only mirror that comes from a perfect, infinite perspective that is both above and beyond this universe and intimately involved in every single miniscule detail of it.
Supposing this to be true, what does it say regarding one’s view of one’s self? Much.
The Bible says that human beings were made to be mirrors themselves. Each and every person was made in “the image” (Genesis 1:26 ESV) of God. This means that man and woman were made to reflect to the world around them what God is like.
The Bible goes on to say that while we were made to reflect God, we choose not to. We willfully and whole-heartedly choose to reflect anything else besides the good and perfect God of the universe. We, individually and as a collective, have become self-breaking mirrors, useful for nothing that we were originally created for.
Now any good owner throws out a broken mirror, especially when making a new one would be much easier than fixing the old. Yet that’s not how God sees it.
God still has a great fondness for the broken mirrors of humanity. While being utterly selfish and rebellious, God looks at those mirrors with such a passionate love that could set the world ablaze.
Because when he looks at us he doesn’t just see the depth of our evil (which is greater than we could imagine). He also sees perfection.
There once was a man who mirrored God perfectly. In every situation he modelled the kindness, love, morality, mercy, peace, and goodness of God as much as possible. Never once did he reflect anything but the perfect will of God. Yet despite his perfect reflection, he was crushed by God and was cast out from intimacy with him. Though reflecting flawlessly, he was declared flawed.
Jesus Christ, God himself came down to earth to receive the verdict of broken mirror for us so that we could receive the declaration of perfect mirror that he deserved. Now when God sees us, he sees both the broken mirror and the perfect mirror. He sees something of extreme selfishness and yet something of extreme value.
That is the perspective that God has of us and the one that takes an eternity of meditation upon to really grasp.
If we truly begin to believe that we are as broken and selfish yet loved and cared for as God says, then things begin to change in our lives.
We will begin to base our value and others’ value no longer off of things like moral performance or physical appearance or influence or ability. We will begin to see every person we meet as worthy of the same dignity, love, and respect that God has offered us.
Selfishness in others will no longer affect our affection towards them.
Failure on our part will not crush us but lead us into a deeper understanding of our value despite our performance.
What God calls wrong in us and others will no longer be something that affects anyone’s worth but will become the areas we lovingly address to better reflect our caring Maker. And the motivation will not be the pursuit of value (which leads to pride if attained and self-pity if eluded) but gratitude for the one whose love gave us (and continues to give us) far more than we deserve.