“Mirror, Mirror, on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?”
When the Queen spoke those words in the tale of Snow White, I don’t think she was really asking a question. Did she really want to know the truth, or did she want the mirror to tell her what she wanted to hear?
Mirrors are interesting things. They serve one purpose. They reflect. It seems that they simply tell us the unfiltered truth. However, when we look into a mirror a strange process takes place. The image that we see before us is both accurate and distorted. It is accurate because the mirror shows us what we actually look like. It doesn’t have any Photoshop filters to take away our blemishes, or trim twenty pounds, or give us a super-hero figure. It is painfully accurate.
Yet, it is also distorted because the image is backwards. When we look at ourselves in a mirror it is not the image that others see when they look at us. Have you ever noticed that when you look at a photograph of yourself it seems odd. You might think, “Hey, my hair doesn’t part that way!” That’s because every time we look into the mirror to brush our teeth or fix our hair, we see a backward image.
This is an important point, because it helps us realize that there are two ways that we can see ourselves, and these two ways are in constant battle. The first way is the raw truth about who we really are, and the second way is the distorted image that we believe about ourselves.
I’ve got mirrors on my mind because this weekend our text from the Narrative Lectionary is 2 Samuel 12:1-9. This story is about King David and how he had a painful mirror experience. David was that shepherd boy who had a strong faith in God, defeated Goliath when no one else had the courage to fight, and was anointed the King of Israel. He had everything going for him. He had all the power, wealth, and fame that a person could ever have.
Then he blew it. He lusted after a beautiful, married woman. He used his power to get her to sleep with him (that’s called adultery), got her pregnant, had her husband killed, made it look like an accident, and then tried to sweep it all under the rug.
David thought he had everyone fooled until his mirror showed up. It wasn’t a reflective piece of glass. It was a man named Nathan. This bold prophet told David a story about how a rich and powerful man took the one precious thing in a poor man’s life–his little lamb that was like a daughter to him–and killed it because the rich man wasn’t willing to use up his own livestock to feed a guest.
David was outraged by the injustice of this story and the abuse of power and authority that the rich man used against this poor man. David named the man’s sin and the proper punishment for it.
Then Nathan stood before David, like a mirror, and said, “YOU ARE THAT MAN!”
The naked truth stared David in the face. There is one word for this moment. BUSTED!
David was faced with an important decision in that moment. Would he deflect this accusation, kill Nathan to suppress the truth, and continue to believe his distorted image of himself? Or, would he accept the truth, confess his wrongs, and accept whatever consequences would come from his actions?
What would you have done in that moment?
David is called a “man after God’s own heart.” Do you know why? It wasn’t because he was perfect. That’s obvious. It is because he chose the second path. He owned up to his mistakes. He realized that he had completely misused his power and authority and had become the abuser of others. It broke his heart. We see the depths of his repentance in Psalm 51. He cried out to God to forgive him and create a clean heart within him. God did. David was forgiven, but David still suffered the terrible consequences for his sins. The baby died and David’s other children suffered the terrible fallout of betrayal and a broken family.
There are many lessons from this story of Nathan the mirror and David the sinner. Here’s one that I leave you to ponder. The letter of James, in the New Testament, says that God’s Word is like a mirror that shows us the truth about ourselves. James 1:22-25 reminds us that anyone who hears the Word, but doesn’t actually do it, is like a person who looks in the mirror and sees that she needs to wash her face and brush her hair, but then doesn’t fix anything and walks away. We need people like Nathan in our lives that are willing to tell us the truth about who and how we are; about how we are treating, or mistreating others. Then, we need to have the courage to be like David and own up to our mistakes, make amends, and be willing to accept the consequences with humility and honor.
May you look into the mirror today and let God heal whatever needs to be healed.