Marathons and mirrors
This past Sunday I ran the London marathon. It was my second marathon (having run the New York marathon in November) and the elation upon finishing the race was just as great. I am still waiting to come down from the high!
The whole experience has been spiritually significant as well as physically demanding.
I fell badly in the first third of a mile and sustained a deep cut to my knee, which made it much more painful than New York. I have had stitches and am still hobbling a bit but I was just glad to finish and also beat my New York time!
I was chastened by that cut; I had my own ideas about how I wanted the marathon to pan out and falling over and getting injured was not part of the plan.
In a similar way, I was also chastened in a spiritual sense in the run up to the marathon. When I thought I was reading a book that would help me understand teenagers and therefore help me bring up my teenage children, it turned out that the LORD was actually teaching me lessons that I needed to learn.
The book is called Mirror Mirror, written by Graham Beynon, and he gives a Biblical perspective on an issue that many teenagers and young people struggle with: self-image.
The basic idea is that there are two mirrors we can look into which provide us with an image of ourselves, but the images are very different depending on which mirror you look into. The two mirrors are the mirror of the world and the mirror of God’s Word.
When we look into the mirror of the world, our self-image is formed by comparing ourselves with other people and what other people think of us. How important I am, how much people like me, the status I have – all these things combine to give us a sense of where we are on the ‘ladder of life’. Provided I am high enough on this ladder, I will feel good about myself.
The problem is, all these things are constantly changing so our self-image will always be unstable and distorted if it is based on them.
When we look into the mirror of God’s Word, we get an accurate, complete and stable picture of ourselves. As Beynon says in the book, “an image is defined by the one whose image it is”. We are made in the image of God (Gen 1:27), so we must begin with God if we are to get a right self-image.
As I read this explanation of how our self-image is formed, I began to see how I so often look into the mirror of the world with the result that I am not content.
I wanted to beat my previous marathon time; I wanted to climb up that particular ladder of success so that I would feel good about myself. This is just one trivial example of how I do it all the time.
When I look into the mirror of God’s Word, I am on much surer ground. It is there I am reminded that I have been washed and sanctified (1 Corinthians 6:11), that I am a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17), that I have been adopted as God’s child (Galatians 4:5) and all this regardless of how many marathons I run or how quickly I run them!
I have to remember that it’s not about getting headlines for our campaigns and getting our message out. As important as these things are, they can so easily become just another aspect of the mirror of the world, where achieving these goals becomes a way of rating myself or the organisation.
Taking that tumble early on caused me to rely on Jesus all the more for the completion of the race. At the end of the day, it is only what He thinks of me that matters and His verdict is clearly shown at the cross. We will finish the race if we look to Him.
All this was a timely reminder for me and I think one which applies to the Church here as well as our nation.
Jesus said for us to expect opposition. People will say things about God and about His people which are not true. We as the Church need to look again into the mirror of God’s Word, recover our true identity in Christ and continue confidently speaking the truth.
As for our nation, some people (Michael Nazir-Ali is one) have said that we have an identity crisis. We have forgotten who we are. It was the Christian faith that made our country great over a number of centuries. If we are to recover as a nation, we must look to God’s Word for a right sense of national identity.
I pray that you will also personally look into the mirror of God’s Word and there find a self-image that is true, stable and assured.
|Andrea is the CEO of Christian Concern and the Christian Legal Centre. She is married with four children.|
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