MAGIC MIRROR ON THE WALL
By DANNY MINTON
When I was 15, I would look in the mirror, and staring back was a baby-faced kid with a flat top and acne. Puberty was certainly not kind to me during those years. By the time I was 18, I could look in the mirror and see a clear face, but sporting the same hairstyle I had been presenting since elementary school.
It used to be when I was younger, I could look in the mirror and see someone looking back with the face of youth and enthusiasm. The hair, grown out now, was darker, the face was changing to a mature man’s look, and the skin was tight. The hair would change now and then, the tan would come and go, but for years, I could see those youthful features.
Now, when I look in the mirror, it’s different. After I put on my glasses so I can see, looking back is not the face of my youth. There are signs of life’s aging presence. The hair is no longer dark, the skin a little more wrinkled and features that show the stress of time. However, when I see others with whom I attended high school I’ll hear the words, “I’d recognize you anywhere!” There’s enough of the old me still there that still represents what I have looked like over the years.
We all look in the mirror and see changes to our physical appearance. We take inventory of what is still good and what has gone the way of youth. We do our best to be presentable no matter what our age and do the best we can with what the Lord has “blessed” us with, in looks.
However, looking in the mirror at our physical appearance is only the picture of who we are on the outside, and that is the least important part of our being. The question that James poses is when you look in the mirror, who do you see on the inside? What kind of person are you? What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses? How can you improve?
My question is, “When you look at yourself, what do you see as your strengths?” I don’t want to dwell on the weaknesses. When we do that, we are not using the talents that God has given us. Christians, whether leaders or laymen, men or women, adults or children, should make an effort to build on their strengths. When we do that, we accomplish so much more for the Lord than dwelling on what we do not do well. We all have things we are good at and things we should gracefully leave to others. We should never be jealous because someone else has a gift we don’t possess. It is our gift that we should use to the fullest.
As I thought about what people would tell me about recognizing me anywhere, I thought that is the key to how we find our strengths. I look in the mirror and see a changed person while my classmates see the same person they knew at 18, looking beyond what I can see at the real me.
When it comes to our strengths, it is sometimes difficult to pinpoint them ourselves. In fact, what we may think is our strength may not be our strength at all. I may think I’m a good speaker, but the listeners may be “bored to tears,” hoping the time will be up so I can sit down. I may think I’m a leader when I’m really a better follower. We often pronounce our strengths by what we like to do instead of what we can actually do well.
So how do we know our true talents and strengths so we can build on them? The answer is simple. Do you remember the fairy tale “Snow White?” Remember the queen standing before the mirror with the request, “Magic Mirror on the wall, who now is the fairest one of all?” She was asking the mirror what he thought. It’s the same way about finding out the talents we have on which to build the Lord’s church. We ask others to tell us. “What do you see as my best talents?” That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pursue those things you like to do, but it does tell you what you have that can accomplish the most in the Lord’s kingdom.
This becomes especially important in leadership. Building on individual talents can help the church to grow stronger. A productive leadership translates into a productive congregation, and a productive congregation translates to a growing kingdom for the Lord. Some of us may be surprised by what others see as our true talents. It may be something we thought we didn’t do well. It may be something we hadn’t even seen as our talent. The picture of ourselves given to us by others will only make us better leaders.
I’m going to close these Thursday Thoughts with a couple of challenges. You don’t have to do it, of course, but by doing it you may open doors to things you have never done, or it may show someone else what their potential may be for the kingdom.
Challenge #1: Ask the mirror. Ask others what they see as your true talents and look for ways to build on them.
Challenge #2: Be the mirror. Let others know what you see in them as their talents. Encourage them to use them.
Mirrors are not as much fun to look in as we get older. We can’t do a lot about our physical aging, although the “youth” business is alive and well in infomercials. However, we are never too old to better ourselves as servants of the Lord.
By the way, I did find out if I look in the mirror in dimmer light, I look a lot better.
But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it-not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do. James 1:25
Danny Minton is Pastoral Minister and Elder at Southern Hills Church of Christ.