“I’m starting with the man in the mirror…”
I referenced that song early in my blog history. The previous post was about becoming an adult, and I, in very abstract fashion, described the process of growing up. It involved talk about change, budgeting money, and throwing out crappy boxes, and it was a lot. Pardon me if I lost you in those metaphors before.
Anyway, I mention this lyric now because I’ve been looking within myself given the recent series of tragedies; I ask myself: how am I REALLY contributing and responding to this world in which we live?
I’ve wondered where I am in ALL that’s going on, and there’s plenty going on. Quite frankly, I’m overwhelmed by how much is going on right now. The quantity of content from all the news and social media is seemingly endless, and the quality of said content is HEAVY.
Essentially, a core element of the content is death. There are countless facts and opinions about suicide, homicide, and even genocide being put out there. Post after post after post about death weighs on the soul. Death is a heavy topic to tackle, especially in instances when it’s not just after 70+ years of life well lived. These deaths have made folks think and talk about depression, justice, privilege, oppression, freedom, identity, culture, and a longer list of topics that really do matter.
More for this laundry list of important topics later.
Having had my fill of disheartening and disturbing reports in the media, I wanted to write something that was encouraging. I didn’t want to invalidate how people felt—I just wanted to speak life into the death of these situations, but every time I started, I felt blocked.
I stopped trying to write, and I prayed. I just talked to God and processed things between the two of us.
For the record, I really believe that praying is one of the best things to do right now. I’ve felt burdened after all those posts, and prayer helps me to lay those burdens down and invites God to sort through thoughts and feelings that have been instigated within me.
I prayed about Robin Williams’ death and for those who know him. I prayed for the ISIS terrorists, the Christians they are killing, and the communities in Iraq affected directly. I prayed for the Mike Browns and Eric Garners out there as well as for the police officers who keep finding themselves on the giving end of violence. I prayed and prayed and prayed.
While praying, the Holy Spirit enlightened me about myself.
One of the deepest reasons I have struggled with reading all of this tragic content about human beings killing other human beings is because I struggle with addressing the parts of myself that I don’t like. As much as I love myself, I hate my sin; it’s not easy to look at the man in the mirror and admit when I see selfishness, pride, and fear. As much as I seek to do right, it’s tough to confess how these things wrongly influence my mind and heart.
To be clear, I’m not exactly blaming myself for all that’s happened. Neither do I trivialize the systemic and structural ways that injustice occurs around the world.
Rather, I wish to highlight that the aforementioned laundry list of important topics instigated by all these death-focused reports are abstract ideas that dwell in our minds and hearts first before they dwell in our communities. We cannot come together and collectively address the tangible reality of these ideas around us if we do not individually address the spirit of these ideas within us.
In other words, I have to call out my mess before I can come for anybody else with life-bringing encouragements and exhortations. If not, they’re just empty platitudes.
I’ve lived long enough to know that I have been both the victim and the villain. I am the same kind of human being as the ones being killed AND as the ones killing. I am Mike Brown AND I am Darren Wilson. Such is life.
As an adult, I am grateful to know by the spirit who God has made me to be in Christ. And as an adult, I am confident that the only way I can be that person is by remembering how much I am loved no matter what stands in front of that mirror looking back at me.
I know by the spirit that God’s love for us is infinite and endlessly abundant; I’ve yet to locate anything better than this as the foundation for my identity. It’s this love that establishes me, that compels me to keep dealing with my own mess, and that frees me to confront the mess in our world.
“I’m starting with the man in the mirror / I’m asking him to change his ways/ And no message could’ve been any clearer / if you wanna make a world a better place, take a look at yourself and then make a change / na na na, na na na, na naa na naa.”
Love Love Love,