Most of us look in a mirror at least once a day. For us men, it's usually while we're having a shave. The mirror helps us avoid cutting ourselves. Women need a mirror so that they can put on their make-up and do their hair. Looking in a mirror is part of our daily routine.
But what do we see? Now that sounds a stupid question! Ourselves, of course! More important, how do we react? Some of us may be very dissatisfied with our appearance. We compare ourselves with super-models - male or female - and find ourselves wanting. But we will never have peace of mind unless we can accept what we see in the mirror and say, 'That's me! I'm glad!'
Or we may be so pleased with what we see that we become like Narcissus, who fell in love with his image, reflected in the still water. That can lead to our becoming so conceited that we're completely absorbed in ourselves and have no time to appreciate other people; so we may well find that they have no time for us. And if our happiness depends on our good looks we will feel very insecure. We know that with the passage of time we will all lose the freshness of youth. And yet the wrinkles etched by age and experience can give us a much more interesting appearance than the characterless smoothness of a young face. Any way that's my comfort in old age!
When we look in a mirror we see not only our own image, but also God's. The first book of the Bible -Genesis -tells us that He made us in His own image and likeness, and that he was very pleased with His handiwork.
To illustrate this I have painted a cartoon of a very ugly wild-haired man, with a blue, stubbly chin and a large red belly, perched on his spindly legs. As he looks in the shaving mirror he sees a reflection –not of himself, but of Christ. Amazed, he exclaims, “What me? -an image of Christ! Who’d have thought it!”
Each of us can and should repeat his astonished surprise, “What me? –an image of Christ!” And even, “What him, her? –images of Christ! Who’d have thought it? -God” That insight should change the whole way we look at ourselves and each other.
But even though the likeness is much more than skin-deep not one of us mere human beings could ever claim to be the perfect image of God. Only Jesus, as the Son of God made man, is the perfect image of the invisible God, (cf. Col. 1.15). As Jesus told Philip, "He who has seen Me has seen the Father," (Jn. 14.8).
So, in and through Jesus, God could be seen, touched and heard; in Jesus divine love is perfectly embodied and expressed in a human form, readily accessible to us.
Imperfectly, we mirror God's likeness in our capacity to know and to love Him as He really is -the One Who is supremely good and true, loving and lovable. In such loving knowledge of God lies the happiness for which He has created us and to which He calls us.
He loves and respects each one of us so much that that He has sent His Son to share our human life and to lay down His very life for us, on the cross -precisely because He wants to remove the barrier of sin, which prevents us from sharing His own divine life and happiness. God could not have paid us people a greater compliment than by His becoming one of us.
Our way to perfection is, then, to strive, with God's help, to become ever more like His Son, Jesus Christ, who is our way to meeting God.
So, as I look in the mirror I see someone loved by God, Who has gone to such painful lengths to rescue me from making a compete mess of my life -from distorting and destroying myself as God's image. If God can love me so much, who am I to despise myself or, indeed, anyone else? God has convinced me that not only am I lovable, but also loved. The same is true for everybody else. Even when my sins have distorted His image in me He still loves me and is eager to repair the damaged image.
As I look in the mirror I realize that God has given me all that I have, all that I am. Without God's creative love I simply would not exist. If I achieve anything in life it's only because He has given me the ability to do so. Without God I can do nothing. Without God I am nothing.
So, as I look in the mirror I mustn't become like Narcissus and fall in love with myself. Instead, I must see myself as reflecting God, and should fall in love with Him. My perfection is to become ever more like God.
A final thought. In the musical, 'Les Miserables' there's a beautiful song with the line, "To love another person is to see the face of God."
Love is the key to discovering something of the glory of God, mirrored in each one of us. It's sad but true that many people will only get a glimpse of what God is like by seeing Him reflected in the love, mercy and care we show each other.