Not too long ago…I messed up pretty bad. It was a personal thing…perhaps not something that even would bother everyone. It killed me. I went to bed, woke up in the morning, and took a shower. When I got out of the shower, toweled off, and got dressed…there I stood…I saw my face in the mirror. I looked into my own eyes…and I was angry. I hated the man I saw. He was slime. He was subhuman…but…also… He. Was. Me.
We’ve all had those days. We’ve all done the worst kinds of things…even if only in our own estimation. We’ve all looked in the mirror with regret. The mirror is sometimes our best friend, but in many instances, it’s our worst enemy. The mirror reflects images of reality. That’s all it does. It doesn’t paint a different picture…doesn’t offer explanatory commentary. It simply reflects the images of reality back to us. Sometimes that reality is a good one, but sometimes…it’s not what the reflection says…but what we know about the reflection that bothers us. When it comes to my reflection, I am nearly always disappointed. I’m disappointed because I have an idea of what I look like…and then I look in the mirror…and there’s less hair…less muscle mass…less of everything I think is there. But then as I look…I will sometimes look at myself in the eyes…and then it happens. As I meet my own gaze, I have a knowing look of what is really going on behind those eyes. I know of the pain, the struggles, and the sin that lurks there. I begin to remember things…and this mirror becomes a lens into the worst memories and offenses of my past. Standing before me, meeting my gaze is a man who is not whom I thought he was…a hypocrite…a man of transgression…and I can’t stare for very long…because there are just too many regrets…and I feel too guilty as I face whom and what I really am.
Recently I preached a sermon about Judas Iscariot. He was the disciple that betrayed Jesus. He was the one that sold Jesus into the hands of His enemies for 30 pieces of silver. He was the one that kissed Jesus on the cheek to identify him when he brought the authorities to Jesus, and Jesus asked him if he was going to betray him with a sign of affection. What I found amazing about this story is that Judas later regretted what he had done, and taken the money back. When the religious leaders wouldn’t take the money back, he flung it into the temple with great passion and regret and he went out to do something else so very bad…he went out to take his own life. The idea seems to be that he couldn’t live with the regret…the pain…the guilt…so he killed himself. If he had looked into a mirror, he would have likely punched it in a fit of uncontrollable rage with himself.
The mirror has that effect on us…although it’s nothing but a piece of reflective material…what it reflects is the reality of us…and as we look at ourselves…we are often very displeased.
There’s something that needs to be considered…and that is this:
He also didn’t have to live with grief.
He didn’t have to find a way to do some form of penance. He simply needed to trust in God for forgiveness. The same holds true for us.
When we look in the mirror, we need not feel condemned…we need not be consumed with regret. We need only to realize and accept one truth: Our Father in Heaven doesn’t see what we see. He doesn’t see the guilty eyes in the mirror that stare back at us. He sees the forgiven. He sees the acquitted. He sees the innocent. He sees those that have had the righteousness of His perfect Son reckoned to their account.
Therefore…the mirror lies. It shows us an image of someone that truly no longer exists…someone that is long dead…someone that is thankfully long forgotten. The mirror doesn’t show what God sees…but only a reflection of a reality that no longer exists.
I am realizing this more and more every day…and now my moments of staring myself down in the mirror with such visceral hatred of whom I see…are coming to a close…as I now begin to see myself through the lens of Christ as opposed to the mirrors of earth. I am realizing more and more every day that I am not the man I think I am…and the memories and regrets to which I cling…those are no longer mine to claim…as Jesus took them upon Himself and traded His goodness for them.
I am not a perfect man…but in the eyes of a holy God…I am an innocent man…and He is continually taking care of the perfection part…and the man in the mirror fades more and more every day…just as my mirror is becoming dimmer and dimmer as time wears on.
I don’t bear guilt…and so…I need to stop thinking and acting like I do. I must begin to act as the innocent man that He has made me to be…and walk away from the mere reflection that I allow to torment me…and this is one of the greatest truths of the Gospel. It’s not just about going to Heaven when we die. It’s about living new and abundant life here and now.