Morning routines can be rough. You stumble out of bed to the bathroom and find yourself staring in the mirror at a groggy-eyed troll who you hope you can frighten away with a shower and a shave or some make-up and curled hair along with a full cup of caffeine juiced coffee. You’ve been repeating this ritual for years and the mirror never wavers; it’s the same frightening troll every morning. Why haven’t you replaced the mirror? Because you know the mirror is telling the truth; it’s simply reflecting reality to you, whether you like it or not.
Did you know marriage comes with a mirror? It’s called a spouse. Gary Thomas, in his helpful book on marriage entitled Sacred Marriage: What if God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy?, writes, “One of the best wedding gifts God gave you was a full-length mirror called your spouse. Had there been a card attached, it would have said, ‘Here’s to helping you discover what you’re really like!’” (89).
Discovering what you’re really like, however, can be painful. Who relishes the thought of discovering selfishness or greed or impatience or abusiveness in their character? Wouldn’t you rather find bags under your eyes and a blackhead in the middle of your forehead than such ugly sin in the core of your being?
In his perceptive essay “In Mirrors,” Walter Wangerin Jr. writes,
Mirrors that hide nothing hurt me. The reveal an ugliness I’d rather deny. Yow! Avoid these mirrors of veracity! My wife is such a mirror. When I have sinned against her, my sin appears in the suffering of her face. Her tears reflect with terrible accuracy my selfishness. My self! But I hate the sight, and the same selfishness I see now makes me look away. ‘Stop crying!’ I command, as though the mirror were at fault. Or else I just leave the room. Walk away.
You’ve done the same thing, haven’t you? You’ve blamed your spouse (your mirror) for your ugliness. You’ve discovered selfishness and you’ve blamed her. You’ve seen envy and you’ve blamed him. You’ve seen your sin reflected in his face, in her face and it has angered you. You begin thinking, “If he wouldn’t make such a big deal out of this, we’d be fine” or “If she’d just let this go, everything would be great.” Do you realize you’re accusing a mirror?
When Walter Wangerin realized this he wrote,
Oh, what a coward I am, and what a fool! Only when I have the courage fully to look, clearly to know myself – even the evil of myself – will I admit my need for healing. But if I look away from her whom I have hurt, I have also turned away from her who might forgive me. I reject the very source of my healing.
My denial of my sin protects, preserves, perpetuates that sin! Ugliness in me, while I live in illusions, can only grow the uglier. Mirrors that hide nothing hurt me. But this is the hurt of purging and precious renewal – and these are mirrors of dangerous grace.
Sadly, many never make this realization. Thomas observes, “I wouldn’t be surprised if many marriages end in divorce largely because one or both partners are running from their own revealed weaknesses as much as they are running from something they can’t tolerate in their spouse” (97). The answer isn’t in blaming the mirror; it’s in owning the sin, confessing it, and repenting of it. Thomas writes, “Behind virtually every case of marital dissatisfaction lies unrepented sin. Couples don’t fall out of love so much as they fall out of repentance” (96).
If you’ve been blaming the mirror, it’s time to stop. Confess your sin, repent of it, and receive your spouse’s forgiveness. And then thank God for giving you such a mirror.