May is often the season in which college students serve on teams doing various ministry work both domestically and internationally. At roughly this time last year, I was in Jamaica with the Judson University Choir, a life-changing experience for many of us. We had such a moving time of ministry there that we hope to go back again next May.
The other day I came across a series of devotionals I was asked to write for one such missions trip Judson students took to India about eight or nine years ago. They were to read them at various points during the trip, one every other day or so, as I recall. I was asked to address the topic of reflections–what they are, where we encounter them, what they mean (and don’t mean), etc. As I read through the pieces, I thought to myself, “These aren’t half bad,” and so I plan to share one per week for the next seven weeks, as I get back into the habit/discipline of trying to offer in this blog, well, some reflections on the Christian life, filtered, as often as not, through the lens of worship. Here’s the first, which focuses on mirrors.
“Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall”
Psalm 139:23-24 – “Investigate my life, O God, find out everything about me; cross-examine and test me, get a clear picture of what I’m about; see for yourself whether I’ve done anything wrong—then guide me on the road to eternal life.” (The Message)
The most obvious word that comes to mind when you talk about the concept of reflection is mirror. And in our materialistic and self-obsessed culture, we place a high value on mirrors, don’t we? We stop in front of them to check for all kinds of things: straightened ties, coiffured hair, erupting zits. We become so obsessed that sometimes one mirror won’t do. We need three mirrors to make sure that the new outfit we are thinking about purchasing doesn’t make certain parts of us look too big or other parts look too small; when my family moved into our new home, the thing I missed most about our old digs was the three-way mirror above the sink in the bathroom, which came in handy when I tried, as best I could, to comb my thinning hair back so as to accentuate the bald spot as little as possible.
Nathan the prophet was a spiritual mirror for King David, in the aftermath of the latter’s adultery with Bathsheba and subsequent murder of her husband Uriah. In 2 Samuel 12, Nathan confronts David by holding up a mirror, of sorts, to the king, showing him the offensive ways in him, as the NIV renders the scripture verse for today above. When David expressed outrage that the rich man in the story stole the lamb from the poor man and served it as a meal for a fellow traveler, Nathan uttered what must be one of the most horrific indictments ever: “You are the man!” (verse 7). David, to his credit, doesn’t try to make excuses for himself and doesn’t foist the blame anywhere other than where it belongs: “I have sinned against the Lord” (verse 12). Read David’s sincere and contrite plea for forgiveness and cleansing in Psalm 51.
Your trip is going to be filled with opportunities for self-examination. Why am I really here? What are my real motivations? What good can a bunch of wealthy Americans do here in India? And, no doubt, some of your innate—thanks to the Fall—prejudices will rise to the surface at some point on this trip. (Those of you who think you’re not at all prejudiced, that you’re above such pettiness, be sure to check in with your advisors soon, to alert them of this miracle. They will want to disabuse you of your folly ahead of time.) When those and other un-Christian thoughts tempt you, remember Nathan’s rhetorical mirror. It’s a lot less painful to do the spiritual mirror-gazing yourself (in the spirit of Ps. 139 above) than to have it done for you.
Prayer for today:
Omniscient-yet-gracious God, Who knows our hearts and our motives and our thoughts and everything about us, grant us the courage to engage in regular—daily, hourly—self-reflection, that we might have clean hands and pure hearts to bring to You and those whom we will serve on this trip, for the glory of Your Kingdom. Amen.
The Lord be with you!