You know what a lot of people see when they look in the mirror? Flaws. My beard isn’t even. My hair looks weird. My face isn’t symmetrical. I need to work out more. I look exhausted. That “beauty mark” isn’t so beautiful. I’m too short or tall. We look at ourselves and often see only the negative, and we focus on it, sometimes even obsess over it. A big part of how we see ourselves physically is connected to what we see below the surface when we look into the mirror, deep into ourselves. I’m not good enough. I’m not strong enough emotionally. I don’t feel like I belong. I don’t think I can take it anymore.
What drives us to be so down on ourselves? Is it society telling us we’re not good enough? Is it commercialism and consumerism telling us that we won’t be happy with who we are without product X? Is it depression? Anxiety? Past trauma? Each of us carries the weight of one or more of these influences in our lives, often without even knowing it. A friend of mine once said, “I believe there are well balanced, perfectly happy people out there, I just haven’t met one yet.” We’ve all got something, some baggage that causes us to look at ourselves and see something less than awesome.
Now the hard truth about all this is that none of us are perfect, at least not the perfect we think we should be. Try as we might, most of us are never going to achieve that ideal image of ourselves, and its not for lack of trying, and its not that we don’t have the greatness within us to do it. The problem is that perfect us that we strive to become is always changing and moving just beyond what we can do today, so when we get up and look in the mirror tomorrow, the finish line has moved again.
The thing is that when our Maker looks at us, looks deep within us, God often sees something else entirely. When choosing a King for Israel, God didn’t choose the one who appeared the strongest or came across as the most charismatic. God passed by all the sons of Jesse seeking the one that was too busy tending to the family sheep. David was a runt, and when lined up next to his brothers, he was lacking, and yet God chose him. God saw within David a greatness, not perfection, but greatness. David went on to be king and make a lot of mistakes, but with God’s guidance, he did some pretty amazing things too.
I imagine that’s what God sees in us, that something that we often miss. It’s a greatness within us that can guide us – small and insignificant though we may feel – to change the world around us. You see when God looks at us, all that is seen is the person as we were created to be, perfect in our imperfections. Then again, maybe God is biased. Parents usually are.
Still, try it some morning when you wake up. Rather than look in the mirror and seek that finish line of perfection, maybe take a long look at yourself and say, “What great things am I going to do today with God’s help?”
Rev. Richard Bowley