Time to Face the Mirror
By DANNY MINTON
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the State Fair of Texas, in some ways, continues to operate on a limited basis. I grew up attending the State Fair just about every year I was in school. I remember the midway, the food, and museums on the Fair Park grounds. One of my favorites was the automobile exposition. My brother and I would come home, each with a bag full of brochures on all the new cars and trucks that the automakers introduced in glamorous fashion. One of my favorite stops became the “House of Mirrors.” It began with a maze of mirrors reflecting your image in all directions, with your task being to find the exit somewhere on the opposite side of the room. At the end, there stood all sorts of mirrors that distorted your image. One made you look tall and skinny, while another made you look short and fat. Another would elongate your head, and still another would distort the image so severely you could hardly make out who you were viewing.
Mirrors exist for us to look at ourselves and see what we need to do to correct how we appear to others. Sometimes they become a source of vanity to those who think too highly of themselves. I remember the show “Happy Days,” when the Fonz would pull out his comb and look into the mirror and, with a little vanity, put the comb back in his pocket with the comment, “eeeeh.” It carried an indication of perfection. The movie “Mask” is a movie based on a boy with a rare form of bone dysplasia, which distorted his face. There is one scene in the movie where Eric Stolz, who plays Rocky, looks at his face in one of the distorted mirrors. It is in that scene that he sees his face, not as being deformed, but as looking as normal as anyone else. The image gave a glimpse of who existed on the inside instead of the outward appearance.
We walk through life, looking at other people every day. We see warts, pimples, bad hairstyles, and imperfections that each person may possess. We categorize people based on how perfect or imperfect they look. We subconsciously classify whether they are pretty or have some unattractive features, or are they just average-looking? We see hair color, tattoos, piercings, dress, and skin color, using these to place people in the right category of our brain. We become pros at classifying people according to our inner system of classification.
We then add to this the non-visual attributes that a person possesses. We notice how they talk and the way they use words or, in some cases, the words they use that we find offensive. We note their opinions on things and whether we agree with them or not. We watch how they act around others. Are they shy or gregarious? Are they reserved or a little too outgoing? What political views do they hold? Where do they attend church?
All this goes into our classification system we use to determine what they need to do to change. We decided if they are worth being around or not by viewing all these features. We stand with our backs to the mirror and become the judges of what a person needs to do to change.
In our world of criticism, we need to step away and turn around and look in the mirror at ourselves. In Matthew 7, Jesus tells us to quit being so critical of others and their faults before taking the time to take care of your shortcomings. The example is dramatic. He calls what you see in others a speck of sawdust. The problem, he says, is that you don’t have a speck, your vision is distorted by a “log” or “plank.” He tells us the first thing to do is to look at yourself and change who lives in your body. By doing that, I think he tells us we will become less critical of those whose blemishes are minor compared to some of ours. We find out that much of what we criticize should not receive criticism at all.
James adds that the place to start for a better world begins with changing ourselves and not just looking in the mirror and failing to see our imperfections. The place to start takes place in our willingness to see ourselves and follow how God wants us to live. The way to change the world begins with changing one person, me. “Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 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 1:22-25 (NIV2011)
Jesus adds, “First take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” Matthew 7:5 (NIV2011) In other words, for us to be effective in changing the world, we have first to change ourselves.
Learn to stand, not with your back to the mirror, but facing it, looking at the image of yourself. As you view the image you see, look beyond the physical and deeply at what lies underneath. “That, however, is not the way of life you learned when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” Ephesians 4:20-24 (NIV2011)
Danny Minton is Pastoral Minister and Elder at Southern Hills Church of Christ.