Oklahoma Conference of the United Methodist Church

Mirror images


"God, investigate my life; get all the facts firsthand. I’m an open book to you; even from a distance, you know what I’m thinking. You know when I leave and when I get back; I’m never out of your sight. You know everything I’m going to say before I start the first sentence. I look behind me and you’re there, then up ahead and you’re there too—your reassuring presence, coming and going. This is too much, too wonderful—I can’t take it all in! (Psalm 139:1-6, The Message)

By Bishop Robert Hayes Jr.

I view Lent as the season when we go in search of our selves. It’s a period of 40 days during which a Christian takes a long look at the person in the mirror and asks, "Who am I?"

Some of you surely will say, "I know who I am!" Others will say, "I’m the same person that I’ve always been."

And there is the problem.

If you spend these six weeks thinking you have all the answers to the deep questions of the soul, Lent merely will be a span of days that make no difference in your Christian life.

However, if you truly take time to probe your heart, there is possibility that by Easter morning you can become the person God wants you to be.

Abraham Lincoln coined the famous quote on deception: "You can fool some of the people all the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all the time."

Lincoln’s statement leads to this truth: You cannot fool God at any time!

You may think that you know your own self better than anyone. But King David, the "man after God’s own heart," the poet who penned the 139th Psalm, would beg to differ with you. There is One who knows you best, and that is God.

Sometimes I shudder at how people seek to deceive the Creator.

Parading behind facades, masked as though out for a Mardi Gras stroll, people fool friends and even family, all the while knowing — as God knows — the disguises will come off someday. They strive to conceal secret sins, thinking that if no one sees "the real me," well then, everything will be fine.

But their identities become lost amid the glitter and glamour of materialism. They accumulate even more things, to feed their desire to convince others and themselves about who they think they are. They seek friendships that reassure them of their acceptance by the crowds.

They laugh all day around others, only to go home and weep throughout the night.

In the surface view, the mirror says: Everything is fine. I’m okay. Everything is better now than before.

But give thought to this fact: The mirror reflects what you want it to say.

Everything will not be fine, nor will it get better until you examine yourself honestly. Find out who you truly are and where you are going! Your life will not improve until you respond to your own need to expose the innermost parts of your soul to the bright light of open scrutiny in the cleansing glow of God’s blessed presence.

This is what Lent can do for you! This is the purpose for these holy days that lead to the full knowledge that your sins were nailed to the cross, that you are freed from all that separates your heart from God.

If a medical examination reveals that you will die unless you change your ways, but you don’t change, then the exam is of no value. The same is true of your inward journey. If the faults, the sins you find within don’t motivate you to change, then why look?

The Christian calendar states that the Lenten season begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Good Friday. If you follow tradition and the calendar, you are right as far as dates and rituals go.

But I believe that Lent begins when you stand in front of that mirror and truthfully acknowledge you need God to enter into your heart.

Within each person is infinite potential, and when the source of all light — Jesus Christ — comes into that soul, possibilities can become realities. That truly is springtime for the soul.

So take these 40 days to look deep within you. Find the faults and feelings that keep you away from a deeper and more meaningful relationship with God, Christ, and your neighbor. Identify the sources of pain or frustration that prevent you from living the abundant life.

And when you know what needs to be changed, for Christ’s sake, do something about it!


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