Daily Proverbial, 4 November 2011

As water reflects a face, so a man’s heart reflects the man. Proverbs 27, verse 19.

Have you ever considered that a mirror is honest and impartial? I’m like most people who carry around a few more pounds than they would like: I sometimes say that the mirror is my enemy. For a man in his mid-forties, I don’t believe I look bad, but neither do I believe I look all that great. Looking in the mirror to size myself up isn’t one of my favorite activities; I’m vain enough in other ways so, these days, I don’t need to be vain about my appearance.

After posting yesterday’s Proverbial, I researched today’s verse and recorded it in the running file I use to write these messages. Then I went to get ready for the day. When I got out of the shower, I caught a good look at my bucky tail naked self and then remembered the verse, thinking about the mirror. Looking myself over, I saw many flaws and a few areas where I would very much like to work some improvement; all I can say is “I’m trying.” Still, I stood there looking and realized that the mirror doesn’t care whether I think I’m overweight or Adonis: it does what it does and reflects back without comment.

It reflects back my face – and midsection, butt, hair, tattoos, and the rest of me – and in doing so allows me to draw my own conclusions about what I see. That’s where the heart comes into play. Years of childhood insecurities well up and I see someone who wasn’t athletic enough to make the teams (so why even try). I see the worthless and weak boy who let others’ opinions of him define him. Bad memories filter my view of the man who sometimes won’t let himself get past winning and losing “the girl” for who could want someone such as me, with the shape I’m in? That’s a delusion. Unfulfilled dreams remind me of all the things I’ve done, both good and bad, that have left their mark on me and made me into the person looking into the looking glass. It’s just like looking at the mirror surface of a still lake: a surface that reflects the life and death contained in the deep body below.

The mirror reflected back what I saw in myself as a man. I’m not a bad looking man, or even a bad one. But I’m not a great looking man either, or even a great one. More than a few people on Terra Firma would have rightfully negative opinions of me for having known and hated me in the worst of my life’s moments. The mirror reflects these things back at me just as they are, revealing my loves and flaws, and reporting an image just like a good (and rare) news story: just the facts. The prism of my experience, and of my heart, is where the perceptions originate. I would be lying if I told you that I’m usually satisfied with who I see.

Is that how God sees me? Does He see me in all my imperfections, desires, and flaws? Here’s the shocking answer: it doesn’t matter. Yes, He sees me just as I am, naked and filthy in the stench of sin. He sees me standing there, naked and afraid and repentant and hopeful, and He tells it like it is: you are a fallen sinner. I’m left with the Scripture ringing in my ears: “Who am I that you are mindful of me?” In this, He views me as full of wrongs, full of pride, insignificant, unholy. This is who I have become from some of the choices I’ve made.

And yet…

…And yet that’s not how He sees me at all. Because of His love and His grace and His sacrifice in the Savior, God doesn’t see that at all. Instead, He sees a new me, cleaned up, fresh out of the shower, naked and unafraid, cleansed free of all the junk I did and carted around. He sees the blood of Christ that washed me much cleaner than the water of Flint, Michigan ever could. God sees in me hope, possibilities, a future, and love. He sees them because I opened my heart that He might install them there. The Scripture still rings in my ears – who am I that you are mindful of me – and I realize that He sees me as a reflection of His love, as one of His tools to impart His grace, share His words, love the others in His family of man. He sees me as the redeemed me.

Indeed, He looks into my heart and sees past all the muck and the mire and the impartial but shallow reflection from the lake top. He looks to the heart below. As long as it is open to Him, nothing else matters. To paraphrase Paul, what comes out of the heart is what defines the man, and a man with God and love in his heart will wear those as the face – as the mirror image – that he presents to the world. To be sure, love’s opposite can live in the heart, too, and this too can define us if we aren’t careful. Me, I prefer to wash all that away. If you see me, I want you to see Him reflecting back at you and letting you draw the same conclusion about yourself. You too can be redeemed; perhaps you are. What say you?

Water can cleanse or it can hurt. It can be warm or bracing. The reflection can be as well, and neither. I will admit that I sometimes don’t like the reflection that the mirror shows me. I see the flaws, the hurt, the imperfections, and I lose sight of the fact that God doesn’t give a flip about those things in light of His Son. When that happens, a gut-check is in order; a reminder to remember that the mirror of the lake or the glass can reflect the good things instead. I can look at the extra pounds as a challenge, the scars as souvenirs of overcoming struggle, the tats as artwork, and the bad memories as mirages that can only hurt if I let them. The mirror will only see what I show it, honestly and impartially. Here’s to showing it someone better in the days to come.

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