Go Look in the Mirror!
Most of us look in the mirror every morning. Bleary eyed with hair out of place, we see what we look like. We brush our teeth and smile approvingly at ourselves. We smooth the bed out of our hair. We put on our deodorant and shave our faces. We apply our makeup and stretch out any wrinkles. We might flex our muscles and put on a show for ourselves (*I’m admitting nothing here). We make sure buttons are in place and collars are straight.
To put this in perspective, the average woman spends 55 minutes a day looking in the mirror, mostly to fix their hair and apply their makeup. This adds up to two complete weeks of staring at themselves per year! Wowzers, that’s a lot of time! And before you ask, “what about the men?” Let me give you the answer. While men spend less time gazing in the mirror, they look in the mirror more often than women.
We don’t know what we look like. We, even though we have looked intently at ourselves in the mirror, still have a mental mirage of self-reflection. Maybe we picture ourselves younger than we really are. For me personally, I know intellectually I am 38 years old, but mentally I picture myself about 10 years younger. When not looking in the mirror, I don’t remember the extra 25 pounds I have cushioning my mid-section. I don’t remember exactly how much gray has popped up in the last few years. When I’m not forced to “face reality” in the mirror, I’m extremely good at self-deception.
Spiritually, we are no different. Maybe we are even a little worse off since there is no mirror we stare in for 55 minutes a day. We have few times when we are forced to face reality regarding our souls.
If there were a spiritual mirror, what we be staring back at us? Are we truly as dedicated as we sometimes think we are? Do we pursue righteousness daily, like it is food and water? Do we set ourselves apart from the world as God’s holy vessels? Are we concerned with our neighbor’s soul and their path to heaven? Have we purified our souls, our thoughts, our actions, our words, our lives as we know we should? What does the mirror tell you?
James tells us that the Bible is the mirror for our soul.
22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 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. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25 But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing (James 1.22-25).
The difficult part of this is trying to understand exactly how this works. How does the word of God act as a mirror, that reveals reality, that helps us to see ourselves? We know the verses that tell us to act righteously, to live holy, to say right things, to love others, even our enemies, to teach others the Gospel. We know the passages that tell us how to live, what to say, and how to become a Christian.
Even though we know these verses, the problem is how easy it is to forget them in the moment, to ignore then when they are inconvenient, and to do things the way that makes the more sense to our human will. It is easy to know the right thing but to ignore it.
The best way I can describe this mirror illustration of James is in the process of weight loss. And luckily, I have some recent experience with this so I can use myself as a personal example.
As a kid, I was always the small one. Youngest of three children, short and scrawny, I think I weighed 50 pounds of bones and skin when in elementary school. Even when I got to high school, when I wrestled and played sports, I still was small. I regularly weighed around 150 pounds. I could eat anything I wanted, snack all day long, down bowl after bowl of Doritos, and I stayed comfortably at about 150 pounds. By the time I got to college, I might have been up to a large 165, but even that is probably wishful thinking.
I married Tiffany in November of 2000, and I filled my store-rented, one-size-fits-all tuxedo, with 165 pounds of bony masculinity. All you need to do is see the wedding pictures to realize just how small I was. I looked like a baby, swallowed up in that ill fitting black tux.
Today, I’m weighing in embarrassingly at about 230 pounds. I weigh 40% more than I did when my wife married me. She almost has the man the married, and half of him again. I’m pretty sure this is not what she bargained for. Luckily, our vows included “for richer or poorer, for skinnier and heftier, ‘till death do us part.”
When I step on the scale these days, I still am shocked by the number that pops up. Every time, I think, how did I get here? Truth is, I know. Bowl after bowl after bowl of Doritos! (or possibly the continuous supply of ice cream). But it not how I got here that is the real issue. It’s what am I going to do about it?
The sad thing is that I even know how I can correct the problem. I know how to exercise, lift weights, run correctly, and burn off calories. I know I could get a gym membership and a trainer who will push me to succeed. I know I could (and should) change my eating habits, consuming healthier items and eliminating the junk. I even know that if I don’t do something about the fact that I’m overweight, it’s going to cause me major health issues down the road and I’m going to look back and regret not doing more.
The problem is that I am comfortable. I don’t necessarily like stepping on the scale, or seeing the curves in the midsection, but when I’m not in the bathroom getting ready in the morning, I rarely think about my weight and overall unhealthiness. It’s out of sight, out of mind.
So that was a really long story to make this point— How “out of sight-out of mind” is your spiritual life?
It is easy for us as Christians to fool ourselves into thinking we are doing great. Instead of thinking about the fact that we have regularly prayed for months, we remember the times when we did pray. We justify the fact that we “still go to church,” even through we know we are checked out of what worship is happening there. We remember times when we were stronger and rely on those moments. We refuse to face the reality that if we’re being honest with ourselves, things are what they should be. But it is easy to ignore during the week when we’re not “stepping on the scale” and facing the truth regarding our walk with God.
We even know if we don’t live for God, we will suffer dangerous consequences. We know how to fix the problem. We know if we would exercise our soul through worship, study, prayer, and fellowship, we could repair much of the spiritual damage in our lives. We know we can become active members of our local “spiritual gym” and be pushed to succeed by elders and members who love us. We know we could spend more time being nourished by God’s word than we do, and less time filling our minds and hearts with the “junk food” of worldly entertainment. We know that if we don’t get things right now, we jeopardize our earthly and heavenly futures.
So why don’t we fix things? The same reason I haven’t started exercising and eating right. We are comfortable. It’s easy to do a little as possible for God. It’s easy to follow a pattern of saying obligatory prayers and attending a regular worship service. It’s easy to avoid certain worldly activities and live faithful to your spouse and justify that God is satisfied. It so easy to get comfortable with the status quo in your walk with God and never actually be what God desires us to be.
When we get to heaven, if God’s standard is that we make mostly right decisions and live basically moral, most all of us are going to gain heaven. But what if God’s questions He asks us is, “Were you everything of which you were capable of being?”
Comfort gets in the way of us being able to answer this question. Comfort gets in the way of progress and improvement. Let’s get off the sofa and go look in the mirror. What do you see? Are you pleased? Is God?