Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Gal In The Mirror

When we were children, my brother and I argued a lot. These set-tos usually ended up with one of us accusing the other of being a liar, cry baby or worse. The inevitable rejoinder was something along the lines of, “Look in the mirror, why don’t you?” For some reason, the mirror remark always hurt worse than the name-calling. 

Almost half a century later, I am doing much the same thing, albeit in the private confines of my head. I glare at the driver who just cut me off and mutter, “Selfish so-and so!” When a movie character sulks and indulges in a pity party, I think, “Grow up!” 

Lately, the Holy Spirit has been giving me little nudges concerning this attitude…quietly holding a mirror up to my inner eye. Not to shame me or accuse me, but so I can see what is really going on when I launch into attack mode. It comes down to this: I don’t want to see the mess in me, so I deflect my accusations toward others. It’s painful to poke around in my own trash pile. Some things are too icky to expose to the light of day.

I tend to think that it’s going to kill me if I admit to certain flaws in my character. I certainly don’t want God to look too closely at the real me. After all, he might point out that “this and this and this has to go or you are no longer in my good books.” Ouch! Of course, I know that type of thinking is a lie. God isn’t condemning me - he’s saving me. He isn’t trying to whip me into shape, but is transforming me by renewing my mind. He doesn’t want me to feel ashamed and full of despair at my failings.

In fact, according to Apostle Paul, God’s power works best in the midst of my most dreadful weaknesses (2 Cor. 12:9). The character defects that persist, despite my best efforts to get rid of them, eventually drive me to my knees. God’s grace always meets me there and we make a great exchange – I offer him my inability to help myself and then his power starts to work in me to effect change. 

Sounds good, doesn’t it? And yet, even though I know this to be true, the “keeper of the mess”  - frightened and stubborn - can’t live with that kind of grace, so hauls out pitiful excuses and useless rationalizations for maintaining the status quo. It’s not easy to cede control of certain areas of my life, even to our immensely loving and merciful God. Part of me doesn’t trust him, you see.

Lately though, I’ve sensed the Spirit saying, “Let her die, dear one…she’s sucking the life out of you.” I’d like to do that, but how do I go about it? First of all, I need to look at her straight on, with no deflecting and no excuses. Giving in to fear tends to enlarge the mess rather than shrink it.
Obstacles are like wild animals. They are cowards, but they will bluff you if they can. If they see you are afraid of them…they are liable to spring upon you; but if you look them squarely in the eye, they will slink out of sight. ~ Orison Swett Marden
 I don’t need to be afraid because Jesus will be right there with me. The battle is not mine, but God’s (2 Chronicles 20:15) and I can do all things through Christ - including facing my mess head-on. Once the ugliness is exposed, I must then cut ties with it and invite Jesus into that area of my life. After all, light always overcomes darkness. It’s a bit of a mystery how that works, really. You take a little faith leap and then look back later on and see that God has been working quietly in secret places. You have some extra peace or joy or patience. Maybe you’re a tad more comfortable in your own skin.

So, the next time I’m motoring around town, perhaps thinking snarky thoughts about other drivers and then feeling ashamed about it, I hope God intervenes to remind me that, “…anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” (2 Cor. 5:17)

Be willing to surrender
 what you are for
 what you could become
 (Reinhold Niebuhr)
What about you? Has God been helping you to trust him in some area of your life?  Please share in the comments section (which is located below in very, very small font).

Photo credits: Drawing of woman - Bas Vanuyen;  Butterfly - chronowizard