Loving Your Reflection

img_2049This year our school’s theme verse is from Matthew 22:36-39.

36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b]

While naturally, I trust Jesus’ word on this, and I believe in the truth of the Bible, sometimes I wonder if we need to love ourselves first before we can love God or love our neighbors.  Maybe we need to appreciate what God has given us wholeheartedly so that we aren’t so quick to look at the talents, gifts, or “things” that our neighbor has and feel like we are left wanting or that God has somehow done us a disservice.

Valentine’s Day is quickly approaching and naturally everything in the secular world has become hearts and red roses.  In the religious world it means we read 1 Corinthians 13 for the who-knows-how-many-ith time.

This week though, I read through the chapter and dared myself to see something new.  I prayed for God to shed new light on an “old” scripture passage.  I should have known He was up for the challenge.

Rather than focusing on the typically highlighted:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails.

What struck me this time instead, was the end.

12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

Now I’m not a Bible scholar.  Unlike most of my colleagues I didn’t go to a Bible college and I cannot quote what some famous minister might have preached about this verse or the direct translation from the original Greek or Hebrew.  But after writing an entire chapter on the definition of love, I think Paul wanted us to fully understand not just how we should love others, but the depth of God’s love for us.

12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face.

Our master bedroom has full length mirrors that double as sliding doors to get into the him and her closets that lie in-between our bedroom and bathroom; much like a mini-mirrored hallway.  I guess this is brilliant for when you’re all dressed and ready to go out somewhere so that you can analyze your outfit in it’s entirety, but it’s frightening when you’ve forgotten a towel and you’re running past them in search of the one you threw carelessly on the bed yesterday.   When I look in the mirror I am always disappointed.  I see hair that would go every which way were it not straightened in the morning.  Two different colored eyes stare back at me that I’ve always thought were irritatingly unsymmetrical; they both could be green or both could be brown and I convinced myself that either pair would be better than one of each!  I see stretch marks left after my second sweet-one was born.  I see scars from having cysts removed in each breast.  I see the cold sore that I blame first on stress and then on everyone who I’m convinced stresses me out, and then on myself for obviously not being able to successfully deal with that stress.  The scale can say 115 pounds but since I’m not sporting a six-pack I still see “fat”.  The breasts that are too small, the legs that are too short… lucky for me I have small feet and I just got a pedicure.  I guess I got that going for me!

I’m not trying to say I dwell on these imperfections daily, but I’m just being honest.  I see first, the flaws.  Later, after convincing myself that maybe those things aren’t as important as I think they are, and telling myself that at least my husband likes my butt, I can get on with my life.  Haha  But I’m guessing I’m not the only one that does this.

In fact, statistics prove that I’m not the only one that does this.  According to The American Society of Plastic Surgeons, in 2015 there were 1.7 million cosmetic surgical procedures.  This wouldn’t be so prevalent among people who already saw themselves as beautiful.  https://d2wirczt3b6wjm.cloudfront.net/News/Statistics/2015/plastic-surgery-statistics-full-report-2015.pdf

Other times I’m looking at myself and it’s not not my reflection that is staring back at me, but rather my inadequacies and imperfections as a mother, wife, or teacher.  My view of myself is tainted by all the mistakes I’ve made and my perspective becomes distorted.  Once again, I’m guessing I’m not the only one that does this.

I’m also willing to bet that what you see in the mirror isn’t what I see when I look at you.  And I’m praying that everything I see in the mirror isn’t what you see when you look at me.  The good news is that Paul knew that too.

When I hear Paul say,

12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face.

I’m hearing him assure us that right now, we are only seeing a foggy version of ourselves.  We only see the imperfect love that we as sinful humans are capable of.  We reflect the love that we ourselves give to others and get from them in return.  This “love” is not always patient, or kind.  This “love” boasts and envies and is self-seeking.  Obviously, in those moments we aren’t demonstrating love, but we have yet to see perfect love other than that displayed by our Savior.  Our mirror is hazy from our own projections of the love we’ve experienced.  Paul tells us that our “mirrors” are clouding the truth.  Now, we only see our version of who we think we are, or a combination of what the world has told us and what we believe to be true.  We only see the “love” we think we deserve, which varies day to day and is only consistently imperfect.  Later though, we will see ourselves as God sees us.  We will see His love for us in our own reflection.

When God is standing there with us, face to face, we will be able to reflect His glory.  We will be seeing ourselves truly for the first time because He knows us better than we know ourselves (Romans 8:27 MSG.)

Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

We think we might be able to understand God’s love, but we’ll never fully know it until that day.  Paul says “Now I know in part,” but when we are able to see ourselves fully as God sees us, only then will we fully know ourselves the way that God already does.  God fully knows me.  God sees what I’m seeing, but with a different perspective.  God knows that I’m imperfect, inadequate, and He thinks I’m beautiful.  He knows all my shortcomings, my past failures and the ones I will make and yet He says I’m worthwhile.

The next time I look in the mirror I’m hoping to get a glimpse of what God sees when He looks at me.  I’m hoping to understand a little better His love for me so that I may soak it in and then reflect that same love to others.  I pray that this Valentine’s Day you can love yourself and your reflection a little more too!

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