An old door creaks open, exposing a long, narrow corridor. Reflections bounce sporadically, presenting a chaotic scene. Distorted realities and convoluted images make the hallway a menacing foe to navigate. Each step seems to become more ambiguous than the last. A single hallway has morphed a multiplicity monozygotic twins. Curved angles and indistinct lines make the path all the more difficult. This house of mirrors is a nightmare of perception. What should be an easy voyage down a long hallway is now a terrorizing adventure of indecision. Every step that seems so right turns out to be another painful bump into a shallow replica. The house of mirrors bends reality and distorts a simple path into a painful experience. The path looks so right, but turns out to be nothing more than a facade. Too many today hide behind the facade of a momentary mirage — stuck in the vicious cycle of expectation.
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I recently finished reading Rollo May’s book, Man’s Search for Himself. In the book, he quotes a patient of his from a psychotherapy session. “I feel like a mirror, reflecting the expectations of others” May was told. There is a deeply rooted pain behind those words that strikes me every time I read that line. In our shallow society of skin-deep beauty, and picture perfect social media expectations, I feel as though this individual managed to pinpoint the pain of far too many today. Our society has become excellent at producing shallow facades, reflecting the expectations of others while denying the truth of oneself. It’s ironic how people cry for individualism while conforming to cultural norms. Hipster subculture seeks to be different all the while becoming more like each other.
Replicating what is expected of oneself is easy – comfortable. However, we as Christians are called not to conform or replicate to the world around us, but to be transformed so that we might follow the will of God (Romans 12:2). Our world today has blurred lines and grayed reality to the point that it is nearly impossible to determine right from wrong. In fact, post-modernism has assaulted truth to the point of asserting there are no absolutes (ironically while using absolute terms). Relativism and moral nonrealism have asserted that truth is a cultural construct respective only within a given culture or society. Like a house of mirrors, the world around us has skewed truth to such an extent that it is indistinguishable to the untrained eye. With so many choices and options in life, choosing to follow the will of God seems like a daunting task. How do I know the right path, the right choice, seems like an echoing cry from so many Christians.
Consider for a second the nature of a reflection in a mirror. The mirror presents all of the detail and resemblance of the tangible object that is placed in-front of it. From a distance, the mirror can be deceiving and present an illusion to the eye. However, what the mirror lacks is depth. The reflective millimeter sheet is simply a mirage that has no detailed depth within itself. Take the reflections away from a mirror and what does the mirror itself look like? See, the danger is that while the mirror can reflect detail and display beauty, it has no discernible beauty to call its own. The mirror lives for the purpose of exhibiting the nature and beauty of others, while never ascertaining its own. Oscar Wilde put it this way, “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”
There is intrinsically nothing wrong with seeking to be like others or following a similar path. After all, the church itself has a subculture of holiness and distinction that is intrinsic and important to follow after. The danger however, arises when one looses all sense of otherness. The reason the church has the five-fold ministry is because God has created diversity of ministry within a diverse church. If everyone who attended your church was a preacher, who would they all preach to? The church needs pastors just as much as it needs saints. God created you to be you, not to be a reflection of someone else he created. Ultimately, the only individual we are ever supposed to truly reflect is Christ (II Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 4:24).
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At the beginning of our discussion, we detailed what it is like to walk through a house of mirrors. Those strange rooms of distorted truism reflect reality into a perceptive nightmare. Straight floors become contorted and a seemingly simply journey takes on a life of its own. I feel as though too often this is the way life becomes. What should be simple to navigate turns out to be a cataclysmic adventure. Take for example job opportunities, friendships, relationships, academic endeavors, hobbies… though we do not know how the cards will truly unfold, a pattern seems to be established that just makes sense. Then, as we begin to venture down the path in excitement to see all that God is going to do, the ground begins to warp beneath our feet. What we expected to happen and what actually happens turn out to be two different realities. Somewhere around this time we collide with the mirror that has reflected this whole spectacle. Our world comes crashing down and we seem to be left with nothing but broken pieces of hopes and aspirations. Decisions made in the face of a mirror present all the emotion and expectation as reality, except that lack the depth of divine providence.
Mirrors are fragile and broken hopes hurt. C.S. Lewis said it best, “We are not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.” Following God’s perfect providence can be painful at times; sometimes we collide with broken hopes and desires. My roundabout argument for this article is to simply be who God created you to be. Too many of us spend so much time trying to be someone else. If you truly believe that you are unique and that the Creator of the universe created you, then I ask you to pause and answer what makes you, you.
“Providence is that continuous agency of God by which he makes all the events of the physical and moral universe fulfill the original design with which he created it.” (Strong, Systematic Theology). Read that again… God’s providence for your life is to fulfill the original design that he had in mind when he created you. Please, stop trying to reflect the norms of our culture. Stop trying to be like celebrities or pop culture. Please, stop mirroring peers and reflecting the assertions of music and media. Mirrors are cheap and reflections are easy. Being you, well, you’re the only one that can do that.
“But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord”
(II Corinthians 3:18, King James Version).