"Objects in mirror are closer than they appear." Those words have always intrigued me. I recall focusing on those words as a kid as I sat in the front seat of my parent’s car. "Why can't the objects in the mirror be truthful? Why can't they appear as they should? If we want to know the depth, the understanding, their place--shouldn't they appear as they are?" I find myself still reflecting on those words but they mean something different now. I find myself wanting to speak those words into the lives of people who struggle. People who battle body images, people who don't like physical features about themselves. People like myself. I need to remember those words.
I've always struggled with weight. While I was always active as a kid I always carried extra weight around and I didn't like it. To this day I still have days where I want to change this or that or lose some weight. And if I'm going to be honest I have lost those pounds in the past and I still wasn't happy. I looked too thin. Other features now became more prominent and I didn’t like those now either. It became a revolving door of disappointment.
We are broken people and part of that brokenness is an unhappiness with self. Just as sin entered and became destructive in our relationships with God and others, it too wreaked havoc within the self. We are self-destructive, belittling, and degrading in who we are. We find we want to be different people than who God created. We see the features of others and we want them. We hear what society says is beautiful and we desire to be that. We allow magazines to define for us beauty and truth. We even allow our own friends and family to make comments about our looks. And those words then stack onto our already fragile self-worth. It appears we listen to our broken selves and everyone else while ignoring God's truth. Value and beauty should not be what we say or feel--but what God declares.
I've struggled with this myself. I’ve had to deal with the reality that while the mirror shows me what is observed it doesn’t reveal gospel truth. The mirror may show me what I don’t like about myself but it doesn’t show me what truly matters in life. A compassionate heart is not going to show up in a mirror. When I stare in the mirror I do not see mercy, love, forgiveness, or truth. Holiness isn’t reflected, neither is my devotion to God and his Word. Jesus states in Matthew 15:11 that it’s what comes out of our mouths that defile us. Do my kind words to the neighbor, the widow, the poor, and the downtrodden. Do those show up reflected in a mirror? We see things differently than the truth that God declares. Thus the very things that are important in life cannot be seen in or by a mirror.
Truth is declared by God and nowhere else, and God declares that the object in mirror is loved by the Almighty. Whose love and affirmation of self is most important in life? Our neighbors? Societies? Ourselves? God’s? God's. Jesus not only died for our sins but he did so because of his love for us--warts and all. Of all the things that are important in life our value of self, while important, is not what’s MOST important. What’s important is what God sees, what he has done, and our response to that grace. As a child of God we must remember that God looks within the soul and not on the outside.
Maybe it’s time we saw what God sees, loved what he loves, and reflect what he has given us. It's not going to be overcome overnight but we need to start today believing Him instead of the mirror.
Rev. Dr. Rob Toornstra
Dr. Robert Ritzema