Sunday, June 30, 2013

Mirror, Mirror!

How honest is your mirror? Has it ever lied to you? Sometimes when we look at the way some people leave their houses, we might think their mirror has not given them an accurate picture of how they look. In those cases, though, it’s usually the mental picture that is faulty, not the mirror’s reflection.

Often our own mental picture of ourselves is different than reality.

“Here's some good news: if you're like most people, you're way above average—at almost everything. Psychologists call this the state of ‘illusory superiority.’ (It's also called ‘The Lake Wobegone Effect,’ from Garrison Keillor's fictional Minnesota town where ‘all the children are above average.’) It simply means that we tend to inflate our positive qualities and abilities, especially in comparison to other people.
“Numerous research studies have revealed this tendency to overestimate ourselves. For instance, when researches asked a million high school students how well they got along with their peers, none of the students rated themselves below average. As a matter of fact, 60 percent of students believed they were in the top 10 percent; 25 percent rated themselves in the top one percent. You'd think college professors might have more self-insight, but they were just as biased about their abilities. Two percent rated themselves below average; 10 percent were average and 63 [percent] were above average; while 25 percent rated themselves as truly exceptional.
“Of course this is statistically impossible. One researcher summarized the data this way: ‘It's the great contradiction: the average person believes he is a better person than the average person.’ Christian psychologist Mark McMinn contends that the ‘Lake Wobegone Effect’ reveals our pride. He writes, ‘One of the clearest conclusions of social science research is that we are proud. We think better of ourselves than we really are, we see our faults in faint black and white rather than in vivid color, and we assume the worst in others while assuming the best in ourselves.’”[1]
The church of Laodicea, in Revelation, seemed to have much the same problem. The prophet John the Revelator was told to write to them and tell them, 
“Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked…” Revelation 3:17
The Laodeceans hadn’t looked in a mirror in a while, had they? Oh, wait, that describes us, doesn’t it? Ouch!
“The Laodicean message must be proclaimed with power; for now it is especially applicable. Now, more than ever before, are seen pride, worldly ambition, self-exaltation, double-dealing, hypocrisy, and deception. Many are speaking great swelling words of vanity, saying, ‘I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing.’ Yet they are miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.” E.G. White, The Review and Herald, September 25, 1900.
Wow, “miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked” – not a flattering spiritual picture, is it? How in the world did we end up so confused, so far off the mark?

I believe that it’s mostly human nature (meaning our sinful nature) to get to a point where we feel like we’ve “made it” and want to just maintain the status quo from that point on. The problem is, there is no such thing, as spiritually making it. The moment we stop learning, seeking and expanding our relationship with Jesus, we immediately start sliding away. There are no spiritual plateaus.

Meanwhile, we also have to battle against western society’s constant message that we’re all good enough, just the way we are. Spiritual growth (in the Christian sense, anyway) is a waste of time.

An article in USA Today tells about something called “spiritual apathy” that is spreading across America. People who fit the description of being spiritually apathetic aren’t atheists, "They simply shrug off God, religion, heaven, or the ever-trendy search-for-meaning and/or purpose. Their attitude could be summed up as 'So what?'"

The author of this article, Cathy Lynn Grossman, offers these statistics to prove her point. (Hold onto your seat, they’re pretty disturbing!)
“44 percent of respondents told a Baylor University study that they spend no time seeking ‘eternal wisdom,’ and 19 percent said, ‘It's useless to search for meaning.’
“46 percent of respondents told LifeWay Research that they never wonder if they will go to heaven.
“28 percent told LifeWay that ‘it's not a major priority in my life to find deeper purpose.’
“18 percent denied that God has a purpose or plan for everyone.
“One professor of religion concluded, "The real dirty secret of religiosity in America is that there are so many people for whom spiritual interest, thinking about ultimate questions, is minimal.’”[2]
Seems like Laodicea could be a synonym for everybody’s favorite descriptor, “post-modern” or even “post-post-modern” (actually heard someone use that the other day. Time to think of new term!)

So, once we’ve taken that dreaded look in our spiritual mirrors and realize we’ve been lying to ourselves, what can we do? How can we find our way back to where we need to be?

Well, the message to the Laodicean church was harsh, but it wasn’t without hope.
“I counsel you to  buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.” Revelation 3:18-21
Well, that’s a relief! Everything we need to fix our miserable, poor, blind, and naked situation, we can get from Jesus. In fact, He’s the only One who can help us. All we have to do is open the door of our hearts to His gentle knock and invite Him into our lives.

Which sounds like a better place to end up? Miserable, poor, blind, and naked? Or sitting on Jesus’ throne with Him, holding His fire-refined gold, healed from our blindness by His eye salve, and clothed in His white garments?

Let’s all keep an honest eye on our spiritual mirrors. I don’t want to have a skewed picture of where my relationship with Jesus is, do you?

“Therefore, be zealous and repent.” Who’s with me?

[1]"Study: Self-Images Often Erroneously Inflate," ABC News (11-9-05); Mark McMinn, Why Sin Matters (Tyndale, 2004), pp. 69-71 
[2] Cathy Lynn Grossman, "For many, 'Losing My Religion' isn't just a song; It's life," USA Today (12-25-11)

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