We love mirrors. We really do, but not always. On my good day, when I look ‘stunning’, I want to stare into the mirror over and over again. I love what I am looking at. I guess that goes for you too. The mirror in a sense gives us hope—that we still got ‘skin in the game’.
But there is another side to the mirror. This side we don’t like. It is the fact that the mirror does not lie. And why would it? I can’t think of any reason why the mirror would tell me what is not. Because there is always a side to us that we don’t like that much, we surely frown when it’s mirrored.
I can’t tell you how many times I have looked into the mirror and did not like what I saw. But that didn’t change a thing, did it?. Even if I stamped my feet on the ground in protest, the mirror will not be moved. It will still do its job—show me the truth.
There is a mirror God has given to us so that through it we will see who we are—the broken mirror—the mirror of God’s creation. But there is something about this mirror, we don’t like it.
Unlike the mirrors hanging on our bathroom walls, this one—we believe—has a lot of reasons to be conspiratorial. But why? Someone once said that “We can’t handle the truth.”
This broken mirror is in the bible and around us. We read about it and walk by it almost every day.
In Adam, his desire to be his own god and his desperate need to cover what he feels uncomfortable with about himself. In Cain, blaming his unworthy worship on someone else and later killing them for it. In Abraham, his desperate need to lie in order to save his skin. And what about looking for answers elsewhere apart from God—including in Hagar the Egyptian slave girl? In Jacob, the cunningness in taking what does not belong to him and then choosing who to give his love to and who to exclude from it. In Moses, taking matters into his own hands and then thinking not about the consequences of his actions. In Gideon, his fear, lack of faith and the need to see ‘proof’ amidst the proof of assurance from God that He is with him. In Samson, seeking pleasure outside his God-ordained confines. In David, wanting more at the cost of other people’s lives. In Peter, selling out when he should have known better. The story goes on and on.
All these characters and more are for us, not to idolize but see ourselves through them—specifically through their brokenness. We are Adam, Moses, Cain, Abraham, Jacob, Gideon and all of them. We are just as broken as they were—if not worse. Their story is our story. Their mess is our mess. Their idolatry is our idolatry. Their adultery is our adultery. Their self-salvation is our self-salvation. Because the sin which ravaged their day, is the same sin still breaking our backs to this day.
They are not for us to draw great examples from but, first and foremost, for us to see and acknowledge our desperation and dire need of God’s inexhaustible grace. They are for us a mirror to see what God sees: “that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually (Genesis. 6:5, KJV).” And that: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? (Jeremiah. 17:9, KJV)”
This also goes for the people in our lives. Those we meet at the train station wishing that a puff of cigarette smoke will fade away their worries into obscurity; that single mother standing in the line inside a bank hall thinking about the last time her cheque bounced; that fifteen year old sitting across the column in the classroom contemplating what his life will be like after his parents’ divorce is finalized; that father in the church sitting in the cold pew wishing that he will once again talk to the mother of his children who has been on life support for the last 90 days; that teenage girl in a dark corner abusing drugs because the memory of her being sexually abused at the age of seven is still fresh her mind; that woman in front of a motel trying to sell herself to the highest bidder in order survive another day or quench a sex addiction; that corporate executive sitting in a dark corner of a bar, while trying to drink away all the besetting inadequacies of his actions.
All this, the broken mirror shows us. But it does more than show us the brokenness in and around us. Its mirroring goes deeper to influence us in a way so defiant than anything else can.
This broken mirror erases the dividing line of categorization. It wipes away the classifications of ‘us’ and ‘them’. It echoes in our ears the voice of God through his beloved but broken apostle saying, “For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans. 3: 22b-23, ESV).” This mirror, broken by sin, levels the playing field. In a sense, to say that: “There is no ‘us’ and ‘them’ but ‘us’ and ‘Him’—God.”
When we start to draw distinctions, we blind ourselves to what we really are—broken. And so grace extended to those who have acknowledged their brokenness becomes an offence to us.
The Pharisees closed the door of God’s free grace on themselves when they thought they were better than Zaccheaus, or the woman caught in adultery on the basis of their ‘moral standing’.
One time I had someone ask me why I went to visit a person she labeled ‘not a good example’ and went on to list her sins to me, one by one. When we do this, we quench the fire of desperation which would have drawn us to the table of grace but instead draws us away from it. We stop to believe what we see ourselves in the broken mirror. Jonah came to learn this the hard way when he wrote: “Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.” (Jonah 2:8, NIV)
There is another thing. The broken pieces of this mirror are not to be thrown away; they are to be embraced for they compel us. They compel us to love, accept, approve of people we may otherwise think of as not being like us. Because the dividing line is no more, grace has been ushered in. And so we love them because we are not any better (even when the world wants to make us believe otherwise). This mirror is God’s creation, a symbol of His love for a fallen people that is why it compels us. John, the apostle knows why: “We love him, because he first loved us (1 John 4:19).”
Amidst this brokenness, there is good news. God is committed to transforming this broken mirror into something good (2 Corinthians. 3:18) and one day there will be a new mirror (Revelation. 21:5). No more shall we have a broken mirror but a perfect one, with no spots of sin. Why? Listen to Paul:
For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding. That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness; Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins: (Colossians 1: 9-14).
God’s whisper of our brokenness is not His last word but His first. His last word is that our brokenness is not the end. That through Him, and by Him alone, this brokenness has been overcome. He traded bondage for freedom at the expense of His beloved son. For you and for me so that we will now look at the brokenness not as a barrier but as a gateway to a life of scandalous joy and exceeding freedom, and even surprising faithfulness! Because everything we need has been freely deposited on our account, we go out not to take anything but to give everything.
It is finished.
“For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come. Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 8:38-39 (KJV).
(Image: Flickr/John Perivolaris)