Beneath the glassy surface, upside-down branches doubled as desperate roots. The puddle painted a bizarre image, prompting me to do a doubletake. When I looked down, I saw the sky lying among the submerged clumps of fallen leaves. Sunlight pierced the clustered January clouds. My eye was drawn to this unusual reflection formed in the remains of unseasonable rain.
At first glance, the emptiness was masked by fullness. Dead leaves reattached to naked branches. Decomposition regenerated before my eyes. I wondered what the trees were thinking. If they bought the beautiful illusion or looked deeper to confess the truth about their current state.
In the midst of a tangled mess, still waters make the cleanest mirrors.
Nature whispered: Be still. Lean in. Look closer. Stand in the light. Pay attention.
This tableau embodied the state of our nation and of my own heart. Muddled and messy, layered with confusion. Dead leaves obscure the view. In this brave new world where lies dress up as alternative facts, the emperor has no clothes – and we the people see ourselves with broken mirrors as well.
We see what we want to see.
This image made me consider the mirrors we use: how they reflect, if we notice them, what we see in them, which ones show us our true selves. I’m afraid I see what I want to see more than what’s really there. And I don’t think I’m the only one.
I project my expectations onto my reflected self and the world around me. I’ve almost completely weeded out my social network of offending opinions, wrapping me in a bubble of comfort. I often filter the daily news through political humor which points out the irony with precision and wit, allowing me to digest it without indigestion. Some days, I throw a blanket over the glass because I just can’t look anymore.
I need a mirror that doesn’t change and doesn’t lie to me to feed my ego. One that shows me plainly the plank stuck in my eye so I can take care of it before I try to help another with the speck in theirs. One that doubles as a prescriptive lens – correcting my vision as I untangle the truth of this confusing season and allowing me to see others for who they really are.
It must begin with stillness. It’s time for a long, hard look in the mirror.
The true state of our hearts is reflected into the world. Our deeply rooted beliefs take shape when we exhale them into words. If we don’t pause and reflect on the truth of what is in us, we buy the illusions. Cracks in our mirrors formed by our projected fear, pain, and selfishness warp our self-image and allow us to drift farther from reality. Confession is good for the soul, freeing us to receive forgiveness and begin again. When we get out of our own way, God gets to work.
I don’t pretend to know how to bridge the divide in this country or how to best make a difference. But I know enough to start bridging the divide in my own soul, by coming back to what matters most: love. Galatians 5:14 reminds me: …the whole law can be summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
I spent time today meditating on the definition:
Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice, but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. (1 Corinthians 13: 4-7)
Without love, nothing matters. Without love, our well-chosen words become annoying noise. Our knowledge, understanding, and faith are hollow. Our pious behavior, sacrifices, and good deeds gain us nothing.
No matter what I say, what I know or believe, or what I do – it’s all worthless without love. Love seeks the good of the other person first. Love starts with listening. Without love, it’s all about me, me, me. The “me” that is capable of self-deception, and yet is deeply loved in all my mess. Just like everyone else. I need to see the complete picture.
But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are fooling yourselves. For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.
If you claim to be religious but you don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless. Pure religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you. (James 1:22-27)
Today I will reflect and choose stillness. Connect with the Creator whose understanding far exceeds my own. Choose to listen before I speak. Care for the vulnerable and hurting in my path. Err on the side of love. Refuse to mirror back chaos and hatred when I encounter it. Breathe in the perfect love that God has for us. Believe it’s working to transform me from the inside out.