Have you ever stared at your reflection and been shocked by what you see? I guess that’s a ridiculous question, because for most women, we are shocked when we look in the mirror and don’t see a super model peering back at us. The mirror is a strange tool we use in an attempt to see ourselves with absolute clarity. However, there is a flaw. The flaw is in the mirror’s limitations. If the looking glass is the window we peer into to get a glimpse of beauty, we are staring into the wrong mirror. You see, the mirror cannot peer into our hearts where true beauty has the potential to flourish. Proverbs 27:19 tells us, “As water reflects the face, so the heart reflects the person.”
So where do I go to get a realistic picture of my heart? For you see, if I am aiming towards beauty from the inside out, I should be looking everywhere but my bathroom mirror. In the last several months, God is using others around me as a mirror to reflect my own true heart. And I am ashamed to say true beauty has been hard to find. He is showing me the flaws and annoyances I have been so quick to see in others are the very transgressions blackening my heart.
Since my son was only hours old his temper has been obvious. An example occurred just a few days ago I was trying to change his pull-up during what was, I guess in his mind, an inconvenient moment. This resulted in momma getting slapped in the face by a child who had lost his ever-lovin’ mind. I am in no way saying what he did was right, but as I reflect on what happened, I am reminded of how often my anger switch is thrown because something happens to inconvenience my life. I am reminded of how often I pitch a fit over something truly inconsequential. I am reminded of how I extinguish the light of Christ each time I lose my temper.
On the outskirts of my peripheral acquaintances stands a woman who, to be honest, drives me a little crazy. I’m not proud of this. The reason I struggle to build a relationship with her is because she showers me with compliments, and they are so numerous I am left questioning the sincerity of her words. And that is when God skips hitting my head with the 2×4 and goes strait for the piano out of the five-story window. The reflection in the mirror reminds me of the meaningless words I sometimes speak. Worse yet, cruel words that flip off of my tongue in anger. Careless words I say with little or no thought behind them.
Yes my friends, the mirror has been harsh in recent months. It seems as if my own dirty heart has been reflected each time I have been annoyed by another. The mirror has shown me my own selfish tendencies. My stubborn need to be right all the time—and I mean all the time. I am beginning to wonder if that is what God has intended from the beginning. When I am honest with myself, when I am able to dig down deep into my own inadequacies, I begin to see those very flaws in my own heart are the ones I most readily see in others.
My first reaction is to argue with God. I want to shake my fist at the Heavenly King while my mind races with phrases like “But that can’t be! I’m not like so-and-so. But I’m not that way!” And maybe to some degree I’m right. Maybe my flaws aren’t as pronounced, if you will. Maybe my flaws look a little different. But maybe I am just better at hiding the flaws. The flaws I know are there.
When I am done ranting and raving that I am not the same as those in my life who anger and frustrate me, my Father quietly grips my heart. He whispers, with more grace than I ever deserve, “Yes, my daughter. Yes you are.” I wish I could say this new realization was painless, or that I immediately act upon the lessons I am being taught. The Christian walk is difficult, especially when we are faced with our own ugly reflections of the heart. For now, knowing that God is using others to teach me about my own flaws is enough to know I don’t like what I see. And this means I still have an enormous amount of work to do. Work that is more than humbling. Work that requires continuous pleas for help from my Father. Work that is vital for a beautiful heart.
I love the way the Message version of the Bible states Matthew 7:1-5. While brutally honest, it is a fresh reminder to examine the state of my own heart’s reflection before I am quick to see the flaws in others.
“Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults— unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. It’s easy to see a smudge on your neighbor’s face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, ‘Let me wash your face for you,’ when your own face is distorted by contempt? It’s this whole traveling road-show mentality all over again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face, and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor.”