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The One Who Looks

I was skimming headlines and noticed a story about some activists on a college campus who were planning to cover all of the school’s mirrors for a day. I did not read long enough to see why they wanted to do this, but I assume it was somehow meant to draw attention to a problem the school or government was covering up. You know how these college-aged activists are, always thinking they are so clever and profound. They make me laugh, really, as if with their eighteen years of life experience they understand all of the world’s problems and are equipped to lead us all in doing great things about it. At least in this case they got me thinking about life without mirrors.

Now I’m not one of those metrosexual guys who spends half of my life primping and preening in front of a mirror. My bathroom isn’t stocked with hundreds of different kinds of moisturizers, hair products and body sprays. But I still wouldn’t want to start my day without a quick peek into the mirror. I still want to make sure that my weird and wiry hair isn’t doing anything too obnoxious or that the afflictions of age (primarily those thick black hairs that seem to grow suddenly out of strange places) are not protruding from places they shouldn’t be.

There is something comforting about peering into a mirror every now and then. Certainly there is usually no reason to gaze at myself when I go into a bathroom but, like you, I always make a cursory check to ensure that nothing too weird is going on. If I eat a poppy seed bagel (my favorite!) I have to check that there isn’t a seed stuck between those two teeth that are just a tiny bit crooked and always (always!) manage to trap a seed. Few things are worse than trooping around all day and only realizing at the end of it that I’ve had a piece of parsley or spinach stuck to one of my teeth or that I’ve had a ridiculous cowlick (or, more commonly, that I’ve had a Dora the Explorer sticker stuck to my pants). You know the feeling.

All this talk of mirrors draws me to the closing verses of the first chapter of James. You no doubt know the words well:

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.

As I read these verses and began to meditate upon them I was reminded immediately of those activists on the college campus. I realized that I would never intentionally head out to a meeting or an appointment without first checking a mirror to make sure that everything looked just about right (or as right as it can, anyways, based on what I’m working with here). Covering all the mirrors in our house would bother me! And then I was struck by the way James portrays the Bible as a mirror for the heart. I thought of how loathe I am to begin my day without peering into a mirror but how little it troubles me when I begin the day without peering into the mirror of the Word.

I know there have been times when I’ve forgotten to check a mirror before heading out. Most of the time it hasn’t mattered, but there have been a couple of occasions when I realized only when it was too late that I had forgotten to shave or that I was still showing clear evidence on my face of having eaten a chocolate cookie earlier in the day. I could have saved myself embarrassment by just checking the mirror. I know there have been times when I’ve forgotten or neglected to look into the mirror of the Word, the perfect law of liberty, to assess my heart. Most of the time it hasn’t shown, but I know there have been occasions when I gave clear evidence of this to the people I encountered. There have been other times that I’ve read the Bible, but have not allowed it to penetrate or to take hold. I’ve been just the person James warns about who “looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like.” I have looked quickly, glanced briefly, but have not looked long enough to allow the Scripture to reflect back to me my sin and God’s standard of holiness. I have gone merrily on my way having already forgotten to be both a hearer and a doer.

God’s Word has the unique ability to give great clarity to what God demands and expects of us. It also unmasks our sin and our rebellion. I would be a fool not to gaze into this mirror every day. I would be a fool to go about life without regularly looking into this amazing mirror.


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