Looking In The Spiritual Mirror

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Sometimes, looking in the mirror brings us face to face with things we’d rather not see. The mirror shows us our flaws up close and personal.

Looking in a spiritual mirror can do the same thing.

In Psalm 51, the Psalmist has looked in the spiritual mirror and come face to face with the ugliness that lies within: “I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.” The Psalmist asks to be made better: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.”

It can be hard to come to terms with our mistakes.

Harder still—coming to terms with our on-going imperfections, our character flaws, and those things revealed by the spiritual mirror.

Even if we aren’t brave enough to admit it to others, we probably all know how we miss the mark. We know the areas where we can, or should, do better. We know the shame we carry. We know the mistakes of our past and how they continue to haunt us.

And, truth be told, we would like to hide those from God.

We would like to stand before the spiritual mirror and see ourselves the way we hope God sees us.

Howard Thurman, a 20th-century theologian I admire greatly, wrote this to God:

It is but natural that we expose to You the things in us that seem most worthy and good that we may delight Your Spirit and joy Your Heart. The unworthy and the ugly things in us we almost instinctively seek to hide, to cover up, that we may seem pleasing in Your Sight. But deep within us we know that this is not enough.

The next part of Thurman’s meditation always stops me in my tracks with its truthfulness. He tries to explain to God why we hold back:

We do not keep back the unsightly from You because we cannot trust You, dare not run the risk, but because we cannot deny the urge to offer in prayer the best that is in us.

It’s not that we don’t trust God with those ugly parts revealed in our spiritual mirror.

We hold back because want to offer God our best, including the best parts of ourselves.

We forget that God doesn’t want our sacrifices, God wants us. “If I were to give a burnt offering, you would not be pleased. The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (Psalm 51:16-17).

Like the Psalmist, Thurman asks for God’s help and guides us to do the same: “Teach us [God] to know that Your love is so whole and so healing that nothing less than all of us can rise to meet Your all-encompassing care. Teach us to share with You the good and the bad in us, the ugly and the beautiful, the clean and the sordid, the success and the failure—all, everything complete in every part.”

When we look in the spiritual mirror and we see something that is not worthy of God, we do ourselves a disservice if we try to hold onto it. God already knows what we are withholding, right?

Admitting our imperfection is a way of admitting our need for God. We do this for our own benefit, not for God’s benefit.

When we look in the spiritual mirror and see our flaws, it means we see clearly what we need to turn over to God. That’s an answer to prayer. “You [God] desire truth in the inward being; therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart” (Psalm 51:6).

We may feel too broken to be put back together, too flawed to be lovable or whole. But God takes all of that and makes a clean heart, a new and right spirit.

We will not be cast away from God’s presence because of what we see in that spiritual mirror. Instead, we find ourselves restored: “Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit” (Psalm 51:12).

What do you see in the spiritual mirror? What would it mean to you to have God create in you a clean heart along with a new and right spirit? Tell me about it in the comments, in an e-mail, or on Facebook.

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