The Image in the Mirror
Charles Naylor, 1941
The mirror is a very common object in all civilized countries. We have all seen our images in mirrors; also we have seen the images of other people and objects. We have observed two things about these images.
First, that there must be an object to be mirrored, or there will be no image in the mirror.
Second, that the image we see in the mirror may be a perfect or an imperfect image, of the object mirrored. The perfection with which the object is mirrored depends to a large extent upon the quality of the mirror. We have a mirror which was long exposed to the sunshine. The quicksilver on the back of the glass was affected by the sunlight and now the image, instead of being clear and well defined, is indistinct.
Other mirrors distort the image and make it appear very different in size, shape, or outline from what the object really is. The character of the mirror, therefore, is highly importantóespecially so when it comes to our spiritual mirror.
Do you ask what is our spiritual mirror? Our minds are our spiritual mirrors. We cannot see God, but we have in our minds the mental image of him. His image stands out there, and instead of viewing him as he really isówe view that image in our minds; so the picture of God that we have in our minds is to us the real God. Our eyes cannot pierce to Heaven and behold him on his throne. We can only form a mental picture of him. Paul speaks of this, saying, "Beholding as in a mirror, the glory of the Lord" (2 Corinthians 3:18).
God works in us and all around us. His working is mirrored in our minds. The mental picture of God which we have has great effects on our attitude toward him and our relations with him. Any wrong idea of God, produces a distorted image of him. If we draw our conclusion of what he really is from that distorted image, it is sure powerfully to affect our minds and our relation and attitude toward him.
It is important, therefore, that we have correct ideas of God. We see varied ideas of God and Christ reflected in the New Testament as they appeared in the minds of the people. Some said of Christ, "He is a good man." The image in their mental mirror showed him in this character. Others said, "He deceives the people." When they looked into their mirror they saw a deceiver.
One writer of the Bible saw him as one altogether lovely, the fairest of ten thousand. Others saw him as one to be dreaded, and they were terrified because of him.
In one of the parables the servant said of his Lord, "You are an austere man." His idea was of a severe Master, strict and exacting. No wonder he said, "I was afraid." There are many people who have just such ideas of God now. They feel he is strict, that he will bring them to account in an arbitrary manner. Their image of God, reflected in their mind, has little of mercy, kindness, goodness, or similar qualities. It emphasizes his justice, his abhorrence of evil, and his strictness. Now a person having that idea of God can never draw near to him. He may fear him. He may shrink in terror from the thought of dying and going into his presence, he may try to do what pleases him from a sense of fearóbut he never can love him as can those who have a more complete picture of God in their minds.
We can misjudge God, as easily as we misjudge people. In my early Christian experience I met a minister who looked very stern. For a few days I was thrown closely in his company. I was in bondage all the time. I was afraid of him. I thought his piercing eyes looked right through me. I almost trembled when I came near him, but after a little longer association I began to feel that I had misjudged him. I found that instead of being stern and critical, he was very tender and kindhearted; and later he was like a father to me. I could then come to him with my problems. I could feel easy in his presence. I could enjoy his society, where before I was tortured by his presence.
Now, a wrong idea of God has exactly this effect. It makes our relations with him unpleasant. It makes us fear and tremble. But when we come to know the tender father heart, the compassionate love, the mercy that endures foreveróthen we can then approach him with confidence; we can be easy before him, and can open our hearts to him.
But, ah, dear soul, if the mirror into which you are looking shows God as an "austere man," remember the trouble is in the mirror, not in God. Learn about him, get him properly reflected in your mind. Get rid of your wrong idea concerning him. Know him as he is.
Some people think that God has no time for them, and no particular interest in them, except when they sin. They seem to feel that he is hunting for faults in them all the time. Their life is made a life of bondage by this wrong idea of God. God knew when he made us finite beings, that we would have faults, and his interest in us is not so much to look for our faults as to help us. Does the mother look for faults in her child? Or does her love make her overlook the faults that others see?
God's love is tender as a mother's. Therefore, it is not our faults for which he is looking. He sees them, to be sure, and desires us to correct themóbut our faults do not keep him from loving us.
And he has time for us. He is interested in our welfare. Sometimes when we have faltered and failed, it seems we cannot help but feel that God must get angry with us, and that he grows impatient with us, and that it is of no use for us to try any more. This is not true. It is a distorted image of God at which we are looking. God is not like that image at all. If we are viewing God as being harsh, critical, austere, and without interest in usóthen let us ask him to change the mirror in our minds and give us a real view of himself that shows him as he is.
You can find his image in the Bible. It reflects him correctly. It shows him as he is. Where your idea or mine is not in harmony with his reflection in the Bible, we should take the reflection in the Bible and reject that in our minds. Look at his image in the Bible. It pictures him as being a God of love. Look at his image in Isaiah 54:10, "For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from you, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, says the Lord that has mercy on you." Troubled heart, look upon this image. Look upon it until it is reflected in your heart. Look upon it until you come to believe this is God's real image, your God's image.