Imagine what it would be like if you had no way to see any aspect of yourself, except what you could glean by direct sight. For this little exercise I would like to include not just reflective glass or other reflective surfaces like water in a bowl, but any means of seeing ourselves, including the descriptions, thoughts, and assessments that others have about us.
We depend on feedback for so much of what we are able to do. The process of reflection, where one pulls something to mind to ponder it, is also the word used for what a mirror does; it reflects back to us what and who we are. The Bible doesn’t have much to say about mirrors, beyond Paul’s statement that we see in them dimly, which forms the basis of my thought for today.
Hardly a day passes that I don’t see my reflection somewhere. I can’ use the men’s room at work or my own bathroom without standing in front of a mirror. We are so used to seeing ourselves, and making the casual assumption that because of that (and our pictures and videos) that we pretty much know ourselves. But consider for a moment that this ready access to our physical likeness might have the opposite effect; we really know ourselves less than those without that easy access know themselves.
My premise is rooted in the idea that we take those ever present reflections and images of ourselves and pass that off as knowing ourselves, giving short shrift to the real personal reflection and self-discovery that appeared commonplace in earlier times.
Physical reflections can distort and trick. The ancient Greeks had a story about a young man who fell in love with his reflection. He was called Narcissus and his name is where we get the word narcissism, which describes people who are so entranced by their own beauty that the only love left to them is self love. They have little interest in anyone but themselves. Narcissus, when he found that the one he loved was himself, committed suicide out of despair of finding another as worthy of his love. I guess you could say that he suffered from eros gone wild. 😉
There are those who believe that hell is the place where that journey of self love reaches its final conclusion; you are left with nothing but yourself. As a result, you are totally alone, forever. Talk about a meaningless existence.
Why do I say that? As a Christian, I believe that God is perfect and in his trinitarian nature: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit he has demonstrated that relationship is fundamentally meaningful and important. Without it there is no sharing, no giving and getting, no one to love or be loved by.
There are many mirrors in our lives and relationships form a type of mirror. It is in relationship that we see important aspects of who we are reflected back to us. Paul says as much in the passage I noted earlier about mirrors.
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. 1 Corinthians 13:12
God sees us clearly and in many and various ways shows us who we really are. Our friends and sometimes even passersby tell us about ourselves. Jesus said they would know who we were by our love, by our actions, not by our reflection, our image.
Will there be mirrors in heaven? I don’t know, but I believe that if there aren’t, no one will miss them, for they will have an infinite number of living mirrors all around them and the aspects of us that a mirror shows, what we look like, will be radically less important.
Grace and peace to your day as we climb down the last few days of Lent. Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem. Death is less than 10 days away and things are spiraling to their ultimate destiny. Maranatha.