Did you ever walk through one of those halls of mirrors along the Midway of your local Fair or other carnival Amusement?
If so, you can probably remember seeing yourself in ways that were quite distorted. Perhaps you were too fat or too thin. Perhaps you kept running into yourself, thinking the mirror was the door. And chances are when your journey was complete, you saw your true self once again in a final and single mirror that allowed you to regain proper perspective.
I would compare such an experience as that “hall of mirrors” to what my own Christian denomination, the United Methodist Church, is presently passing through at our General Conference taking place in St. Louis, Missouri. Our 800 plus delegates there are walking a labyrinth like no other. If only it were a spiritual labyrinth, there would be no cause for concern among the rest of us now awaiting their official vote. Instead, at least speaking for myself, I think of their journey as being more of a head banging walk of distortion, illusion, and confusion inside a biblical hall of mirrors.
A biblical hall of mirrors?
Such a metaphor in my mind comes from my years of working as a family therapist prior to my ordination into United Methodist pastoral ministry. There I found it most challenging to work with families suffering from the disorder we call Anorexia. And what makes treating that disorder so difficult is something clinicians call “body dysmorphia.” Typically, the patient suffering from Anorexia looks in the mirror and sees fat where there is muscle. This cognitive distortion then produces a range of behaviors aimed at ridding the body of this muscle perceived as fat. The hall of mirrors resembles the family’s collective journey through the disease of Anorexia. All concerned experience a head banging walk of distortion, illusion, and confusion while inside this disease of “body dysmorphia.”
During the years of his ministry on earth, Jesus dealt with what amounted to his extended Jewish family as they walked through a biblical hall of mirrors we Christians now call the Old Testament. Among the many distortions coming out of their Hebrew Bible’s mirror was a perspective of fat where muscle existed. So from their cognitive distortions came a range of behaviors aimed at ridding their collective body of Samaritans, lepers, Gentiles, women, children. Even Roman centurions. These persons were perceived as fat, but were instead muscle. Jesus treated their “body dysmorphia” as a family therapist might treat an Anorectic patient/family. He fed, healed and restored muscle mass. And he presented a mirror of true “holiness” at the end of their biblical hall of mirrors, empowering them to see themselves apart from their journey through an illusion.
I can’t help wondering if we United Methodists are not in some ways using the Bible as our holiness standard even today. And in so doing, it seems we keep banging into ourselves. As if we are cognitively believing the way forward is a door when it is really a mirror. And as if we are seeing our body as too fat when it is really too thin. Depending on the mirror in front of us, we may see fat where there is only muscle. Hence, our experience of a head banging walk of distortion, illusion, and confusion while inside this disease of “body dysmorphia.”
My prayer today is that our family will enter NOT into a time of muscle loss and self-destruction, but rather into a time of therapy with the great physician. A journey not through dis-order but rather recovery. I pray that upon leaving St. Louis and exiting this biblical hall of mirrors, our family can take one last look into the mirror that is Jesus Christ. The true and accurate image of our Heavenly Father. And, having viewed ourselves in this true mirror, are then enabled to move forward down the carnival Midway that is our global mission field.
Because our holiness is not defined by the fat and fault finding mirror we sometimes see in holy writ of Scripture, but by the true muscle-blessed body we see in our holy Savior. The Christ. Our “living” Word of God and true image of holiness.