The story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs has charmed young readers for centuries. While we might assume we have Disney to thank for the tale, the story actually goes back to the Brothers Grimm, the 19th century German storytellers who collected folk lore and published it to promote values that make for a well-rounded society. While there are many aspects to the story of Snow White that draw us in, one aspect I always found frightful was the part that had to do with the “magic mirror” the evil queen looked into as she posed the haunting question to which only the most haughty of souls would want an answer. “Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?” As long as the mirror told the queen she was, all was well in the land. It was only when the mirror answered in a different way than the queen expected that the plot line of the story became complicated.
Mirrors have a way of doing that you know. They reveal truths we’d prefer not to confront. They show us as others see us, not as we necessarily want to be seen. Little wonder that few of us like to look at ourselves in them, but in the end, it’s always in our best interest to do so. Otherwise, we deceive ourselves and become more mired in our false estimations.
I recently had a conversation with a friend who asked about any “do-overs” I would like to have had during my time at MBBC. I wrestled at first with coming up with any answers, more out of repression than supposed perfection. But it didn’t take long for me to take a look into that mirror my friend had offered me to see some of the missteps I had in fact taken and from which only the grace of God and the generosity of others had spared me. It wasn’t a pretty picture, but then such “mirrors” rarely are. As I continued on that painful path, I began to see how owning such stumbles is the first step in figuring out how to rectify them and then to move beyond them. Perhaps the anxiety my friend’s question created for me compelled me to reflect again on things I had wanted to ignore, and presented me with the chance to revisit them, confess them, and be thankful for the time I have remaining, not just in this church but also on this earth, to learn from them and not repeat them.
As you well know, our community has been in the news recently over a diversity curriculum proposed by the local school board. Predictably, those on both extremes of the controversy have hurled insults at the other side, insults which have only given our community a black eye. I have no idea what curriculum the school board will come up with to resolve the challenge, but I do know that whatever it is, it will be flawed and imperfect in some way. All human documents are. So, does that mean that our local officials should give up on the challenge and ask for a “do-over?” No, all of us need some type of mirror to peer into in order to confront the truth. Even a flawed mirror helps us to see ourselves better than no mirror at all.
What troubles me about this matter most of all is how as a pastor I see that if the church were doing a better job elevating respect for others, our community wouldn’t be embroiled in such a controversy, at least not one this intense. After all, we who call ourselves people of faith have a perfect mirror, God’s Word, which shows us how everyone is created in the image of God, how all are flawed souls for whom Jesus died, and how we best show our love for God, whom we have not seen, by showing our love for those around us, whom we do see. So, maybe we need a “do-over,” one that will allow us to move beyond our evil, self-centered tendencies so that we might be awakened to the new life to which the Risen Jesus calls us. In the end, as the old hymn reminds us, “I have found a friend in Jesus. He’s everything to me. He’s the fairest of ten thousand to my soul. He’s the Lily of the Valley. In him alone I see all I need to cleanse and make me fully whole.”
“Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do (James 1:23-24).