Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Feb. 8
Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Mark 1:29-39, Feb. 8, 2009
No one can argue that Snow White's evil stepmother didn't have a healthy ego. Day after day she confidently stepped before her magic mirror to ask, "Mirror, mirror on the wall, who's the fairest of them all?" And every morning the mirror concurred with the queen that she was in fact the most beautiful in the kingdom.
Then one fateful morning the queen got the shock of her life. Instead of answering her question with the usual "You are, my queen," the mirror replied, "Snow White." The wicked queen's own image had not changed -- but the mirror's reflected perception of her had. The magic mirror found someone more beautiful to reflect, someone beautiful on the inside as well as the outside.
Even though mirrors often show us what we'd rather not see, it's almost impossible to walk past a mirror, or a reflective pane of glass, without at least giving it a glance. Like the wicked queen in Snow White, we are drawn to our mirrors. We become mesmerized by what they say to us and about us.
We all have talking mirrors, says Ken Hemphill to us in his book Mirror, Mirror on the Wall (Nashville: Broadman, 1992). Unfortunately for most of us, what we think we hear our mirrors telling us is far from our being the "fairest of them all."
Instead, we hear a thousand judging voices from our early childhood through adolescence and adulthood telling us we are fat or frumpy, too tall, too thin, won't amount to much, stupid and failures. Many of us are still looking in childhood mirrors / or adolescent mirrors / or adult mirrors / or even a hallway of mirrors.
The child in each of us looks in a mirror and hears it saying accusingly, "You! Look at you! You can't do that! You're scrawny, your ears stick out and you're too shy to speak up in class. You can't lead."
The teenager in us, that part that always feels 16, looks in a mirror and hears it saying vindictively, "You! Forget you! Look at those zits; look at those braces. You are so far from perfect. No one is going to love you."
The adult in us, the part that at least thinks it is "grown up," looks in a mirror and hears it saying judgmentally, "You! What a joke. Wait until they catch on to you. You aren't worthy of respect."
When we believe the warped images our distorted mirrors show us, we risk making that vision of ourselves real. "What we unconsciously repel in visions of evil may actually be our future. As the Vedic sages described it, 'We become what we hate.' The abused child who hates its beater grows up to become a child-abuser; the Jews, the battered children of Europe, take on the militarism of the Germans ...." (William Irwin Thompson, Imaginary Landscape: Making Words of Myth and Science (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1989), 143-4)
We model ourselves and our lives after what we hear our mirrors telling us because words have power, sometimes more than we know. Someone once asked poet Robert Frost, "Mr. Frost, do you mind people finding things in your poetry you may not have intended?" "I don't mind at all," he replied, "so long as they elevate them."
There is more in what you say than you know. There is more in your belief about yourself than you know.
As Mark carefully records, much of what Jesus did during his ministry was heal. While some of the healings Jesus effected were for truly physical maladies -- fevers, blindness, crippled limbs, deafness, bleeding -- a great many of Jesus' healings were "exorcisms."
How- ever we choose to understand that kind of sickness today, it is evident that these were spiritual sicknesses. One of the most telling symptoms of these spiritual dis-eases was the cruel things the interior "demons" forced their human hosts to say and do to themselves. As Mark mentions in this week's text, the cure Jesus affected was not just "exorcising" these spirits -- it was shutting them up!
Every computer has an "Escape" or "Remove" or "Delete" key. That's what God's healing of mirrors does for our life: It wipes out and removes all the years of distorted and disturbed images.
As Jesus' healing hands in the world today, it is the role of the church to heal people from the damage their old mirror-images keep inflicting upon them. The church must urge all men and women to break that mesmerizing, paralyzing eye-contact they keep making with all the old lies in their lives. The church must help people polish their mirrors until they see themselves as God sees them.
Healing occurs when we can see what God intended in us, the giftedness God gives us and the beauty God sees in us. Instead of believing in the lies of all those talking mirrors, let us hear the boast of the apostle Paul who affirmed that in Christ we are a "new creation;" the "old has passed away;" behold, "everything has become new" (2 Corinthians 5:17).
However, warped by a child's insecurities, a teenager's sensitivities, and an adult's anxieties, these distorted mirrors ruin our self-images. Some of us have been living in a carnival's "Hall of Mirrors” and have believed their grotesque reflections as reality.
In our healing ministry to others as the church, Christians are called to re-silver, polish, and straighten the mirrors of our brothers and sisters.
Can we help others see what Christ would see in them and what God would do with all of us once our vision has cleared?
Father Brennen Manning writes in the Foreword of his book titled, A Stranger to Self-Hatred: A Glimpse of Jesus,
. . . "Self-hatred is the predominant spiritual problem" that he has had to deal with in his ministry. "Unhealthy guilt, shame, remorse and self-hatred are no respecter of persons. Vague feelings of existential uneasiness before the Lord God transcend poverty and wealth, cultural and educational differences, distinctions between clergy and laity."
The Big Four that keep us from experiencing God’s love are self-hatred, perfectionism, moralism, and unhealthy guilt. The greatest damage talking mirrors do is to convince us that we have nothing to offer the world that we have no gifts that are worth anything. If the church is to be in the healing business, it must give people a way to claim their own giftedness.
Manning goes on to describe Jesus love and acceptance in the examples of Mary Magdalene, Simon Peter, and the Prodigal Son . . . Jesus gave them back their human dignity. Jesus, a stranger to self-hatred, graciously forgave them and restored them and the way he did it restored their human dignity. No guilt trips. No "I told you so"s.
Jesus is the human face of the Father. We are loved and accepted.
We all have "talking mirrors,” which reflect distorted images. Jesus can heal those who are damaged by these distortions. Amen.
Rev. Rosemary Stelz
First Presbyterian Church, Bastrop, Louisiana
And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit. --2 Corinthians 3:18