Every day we look at our reflection in the mirror. We also steal glances into reflective surfaces like windows. Studies show that we look at ourselves in this way upwards of sixty times a day.
Most of the time, we are looking at our physical appearance. We’re trying to discern if our outfit looks good or our makeup is smeared or a hair is out of place. But have you ever locked eyes with yourself in the mirror? How does that feel? What do you see in those moments?
Odds are, you quickly look away. We want to get the physical appearance just right, but there is something a little weird and scary about staring into our own eyes; the gateway to the soul.
Mirrors Don’t Lie
One of the reasons this feels uncomfortable is that the mirror never lies. Unlike your friend who tells you your hair looks great, the mirror is going to show you exactly what is out of place. We can manipulate the facts or misinterpret what we are seeing. But the mirror itself reflects the truth.
That pang we feel when we lock eyes with ourselves is full of truth as well. It makes us feel uneasy when we see something there. Some secret that the mirror knows. Some corner of self-awareness we keep hidden that momentarily gets exposed.
What if we pressed into the discomfort rather than looking away? What if the truth was a little more comfortable?
A World of Mirrors
The mirror is a metaphor for the way we live our lives. We look around the edges without scratching the surface. There is a depth to us, a purpose, a set of values, that we are looking around. It is there, staring us in the face. But the truths are so deep, so real, that they frighten us and our best strategy is to quickly look away.
The Bible talks about itself as a mirror. It warns against ‘walking away and forgetting what we look like’ (James 1:24). It calls us out. We so infrequently look into ourselves, asking the questions that matter about what drives us, and what is holding us back. We bop through our day completely unaware of who we really are and what we really want to be doing. What truly matters to us? As long as we look good and get some acceptance from others, it is easy to forget all the rest.
The Bible is the truest mirror for gazing into our souls, locking ‘eyes’ with ourselves and seeing the truth (or lack of truth) within – including our attitude, behavior, and perspective.
But there are other mirrors as well. A world of them. It’s like walking by a building. You see your reflection, but it is a little fuzzy, a little blurred, murky, or unclear. Yet, it shows some truth. The same is true for looking at our reflection in a shiny car or metal napkin dispenser.
The world is full of these imperfect mirrors. Relationship and community. Church, school, work. They may be a little murky, but if we look just the right way, we can see the truths within.
Of course, there are some mirrors that do lie. Funhouse mirrors that show elongated versions, manipulating the reflection to show us something false.
The trick is to be looking, really looking. We see what we are looking for. And if we are looking for mirrors to show us our physical appearance, that’s all we will see. If we are looking for mirrors to show us the truth of who we are and how we are living up to that standard, we might see some hard things, but we will see the truth and will be better equipped to make choices that align with who we want to be.