In mirrors I see myself. But in mirrors made of glass and silver I never see the whole of myself. I see the me I want to see, and I ignore the rest.
Mirrors that hide nothing hurt me. They reveal an ugliness I’d rather deny. Yow! Avoid these mirrors of veracity!
My wife is such a mirror. When I have sinned against her, my sin appears in the suffering of her face. Her tears reflect with terrible accuracy my selfishness. My self! But I hate the sight, and the same selfishness I see now makes me look away.
“Stop crying!” I command, as though the mirror were at fault. Or else I just leave the room. Walk away.
Oh, what a coward I am, and what a fool! Only when I have the courage fully to look, clearly to know myself—even the evil of myself—will I admit my need for healing. But if I look away from her whom I have hurt, I have also turned away from her who might forgive me. I reject the very source of my healing.
My denial of my sin protects, preserves, perpetuates that sin! Ugliness in me, while I live in illusions, can only grow the uglier.
Mirrors that hide nothing hurt me. But this is the hurt of purging and precious renewal—and these are the mirrors of dangerous grace.
The passion of Christ, His suffering and His death, is such a mirror. Are the tears of my dear wife hard to look at? Well, the pain in the face of Jesus is harder. It is my self in my extremest truth. My sinful self. The death He died reflects a selfishness so extreme that by it I was divorced from God and life and light completely: I raised my self higher than God! But because the Lord God is the only true God, my pride did no more, in the end, than to condemn this false god of my self to death. For God will be God, and all the false gods will fall before Him.
So that’s what I see reflected in the mirror of Christ’s crucifixion: my death. My rightful punishment. My sin and its just consequence. Me. And precisely because it is so accurate, the sight is nearly intolerable.
Nevertheless I will not avoid this mirror! No, I will carefully rehearse the passion of my Jesus—with courage, with clarity, and faith; for this is the mirror of dangerous grace, purging more purely than any other.
For this one is not made of glass and silver, nor of fallen flesh only. This mirror is made of righteous flesh and of divinity, both—and this one loves me absolutely. My wife did not choose to take my sin and so to reflect my truth to me. She was driven, poor woman. But Jesus did choose—not only to take the sin within Himself, not only to reflect the squalid truth of my personal need, but also to reveal the tremendous truth of His grace and forgiveness. He took that sin away.
This mirror is not passive only, showing what is; it is active, creating new things to be. It shows me a new me behind the shadow of a sinner. For when I gaze at His crucifixion, I see my death indeed—but my death done! His death is the death of the selfish one, whom I called ugly and hated to look upon.
And resurrection is another me.
~from “In Mirrors” by Walter Wangerin, in Bread and Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter, Orbis Books, New York, 2003, pp 11-14.
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