I’ve been thinking about mirrors

Let me be clear before you let your mind wander! I mean mirrors in the gym. One of the first things I noticed when I started going to the gym years ago was all the mirrors. You couldn’t go anyplace in the gym without looking at yourself. How vain, I thought. The gym had a lot of the “beautiful people” with the perfect bodies, and I just thought they were in love with themselves, the ultimate narcissists. But I was wrong…The fact was that mirrors were the key to developing those bodies. Mirrors did a couple of things for them. First, it reminded them of the work they had to do. Lots of mirros meant no escaping the flaws. The extra roll here, the skinny muscle there, the imbalance, the need to get some extra work done on a part of the body that just won’t seem to respond to workouts. These things are easy not to see – unless you are surrounded by mirrors.

The second thing mirrors do is keep people in form as they work out. We can cheat. Rather than maximizing the strain so the muscles can tear and then heal to become stronger, we can unconsciously develop ways to avoid the pain. We’re lifting but even as we do our natural tendency is to do it in a way that keeps hurt manageable. And we end up compromising the work out.

Spiritually we need mirrors. Lots and lots of mirrors. The Bible is a mirror, as James reminds us. Fellowship is a mirror. Church is a mirror. Prayer is a mirror. As we enter into the disciplines, we are constantly reminded of where we are, how far there is to go and the cost it will require to get there. Sometimes it’s easier to forget. People who are moving away from Christ have to get rid of the mirrors first.

But mirrors do one more thing. They remind us of how far we have come. That’s a good thing. People who exercise faithfully and have dominion over their bodies should have the joy of seeing the results – and be reminded that they don’t want to return to the land of self-indulgence and out-of-control appetites.

No, the gym isn’t full of beautiful people. It is full of humble people who had the courage to face themselves. They say that the difference between a good speaker and a bad speaker is that the good speaker was willing to be a bad speaker a bit longer than the others until he got good. And that’s true about spiritual growth, too. The strong and the mature weren’t born that way. They were just more willing to be embarrassed longer, humbled longer and honest longer. They were willing to stay in front of the mirror.

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