Kingdom Principle: Relationships reveal our transformation and purpose.
There is no right answer to advance the Kingdom – just righteous relationships
In Snow white, the jealous queen asks the magic mirror – “Mirror, Mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?” However, She did not want the answer it gave her, and in much the same way, most of us have come to avoid the mirrors of our lives. Yet, the Bible uses the concept of mirrors to help us see ourselves and our formation as we really are: The wash basin of the Tabernacle (Ex. 38:8) was covered in mirrors (emotional formation), James 1:23-25 addresses missional formation,2 Cor. 3:18 address relational formation, and 1 Cor. 13:12 looks at spiritual formation. While we use mirrors to see ourselves physically, in the kingdom, relationships are the mirrors by which we can see our formation. It is a great hindrance to our formation when we do not see the long-term fruit of working through relationships that can be difficult – Welcome to the Church!
It is not easy to see ourselves outside of the reflections and expressions of others. This becomes our journey with Jesus to see ourselves in relationship with the Father, rather than the labels of others. Unfortunately we trust others far more quickly than God because we have struggled to learn to hear his voice. Most of us want God to tell us the right answer, yet this mystical “crystal ball” to which we are praying too does not seem to work in this way. However we know people who always seem to have the right answer, yet we don’t want it… Make a list right now of the 5 people in your life that you hear their voice (either good or bad) as you make decisions. In this post we are going to look at our relationships with others as creating either “doors”, “walls” or “mirrors”?
- The doors create opportunities and give direction (right answers and actions).
- The walls create obstacles and give emotional and physical weight (guilt/shame).
- The mirrors reflect reality, allowing you to see yourself as you really are and the decisions you make as a choice.
Jesus is the only true door, (John 10:7) and many find themselves surrounded by walls and more troubling is being surrounded by walls who are pretending to be doors.
When we know the right “answer” for someone else and we attempt to “control” that person by convincing them that the answer we have is right – we are acting as a wall. (Our intentions are good, but our actions are counter-productive due to it being management not leadership – see last week) When we know the right “answer” and choose prayer as a way to see a changed heart, rather than our wisdom, they find God’s wisdom. This choice to “lead” another person through to change, buy means of their own self-discovery is to be acting as a mirror. This transformation most often comes in through listening. (My wife has helped me to understand that it’s one thing to be told you are beautiful and quite another to look in the mirror and to believe you are beautiful.) If we know the right “answer” and we attempt to clear the way so that others can get there as we did, while our goal may not be control, we are in fact playing the role of God in their life. (Trying to convince someone they are beautiful, by pointing out all the things about them that are beautiful, rarely convinces the doubter that they are in fact beautiful.) When we discover that God loves us, is the necessary and only true first step to loving others.
The previous post brought our attention to the fact that leaders, lead people into change. Regardless of how we lead our children or people at work, or people at church, anyone who is yet to know the King intimately and to fully discover their God given missional purpose, needs another to lead them to this discovery. If this leadership is a controlled environment, where the leader has the answer, and the follower is constantly trying to find it, the leader is a wall even if they are trying to be the door. (This poses a great challenge for most parents – see endnote) A leader as a mirror is willing to be present in someone’s life allowing there to be room for success and failure, where every person discovers more about themselves in the process.
Joshua was a mirror to the Israelites – asking “whom will you choose to serve”, helping them to see that their actions were not aligned with their attitudes toward God. Joshua’s willingness to mirror the reality that the Israelites say yes to God, then to take contrary actions is represented well in the text, Joshua will not be the door to the promised land and future of God’s people. God opens doors, yet does not push us through; he invites us closer by placing “mirrors” along the way so that we more clearly see ourselves and our need for the door. Abraham’s life is filled with stories where God seems to be silent in Abraham’s folly, yet somehow it leads him to encounter the next door. (Mirrors don’t fix a problem, they reveal the reality – Most people in vocational ministry get paid to be a “door” not a “mirror” – a major problem in my opinion) Moses entered the doorway as the LORD revealed it, his error is that he became the door by striking the Rock… and so was removed from leadership, not as much as disciple, but for the sake of the people. The LORD’s ways do not always make sense to us. The Lord Jesus speaks in parables to create a mirror-like experience for listener to reflect and discover. In the parable – the 5 Virgins with oil in their lamp acted as a mirror to those without, not attempting to be the door, nor a wall – rather reflecting the reality of their situation.
This parable is one of the greatest subversive truths about the church as mission…. having oil in your lap equivalent to knowing your God given purpose (your mission) in this world…and you can only see the level of your “oil” by looking in a mirror. The challenging part of the parable, it that most of us want to be able to share the oil in our lamp. This is to be a “door” to others. Yet, it is impossible to give your personal divine purpose to another – what we can do is reflect the reality, and inspire them to discover the oil that must fill their lap.
We each must discover that which God has placed in us, not by way of comparison to those around you, but by discovering the “mirrors” which you have around you. This process can be painful as it will also reveal who are “doors” and “walls”. This is not to blame others who are walls or doors, only to “mirror” for you what is your current reality of relationships around you. “Walls” are people always tell you “No” or discourage you from following your dreams. “Doors” are people who always tend to have the right answer for you – these people know how to “improve your life”, and tell you “if you would only do __X__ things would be better”. Often this is in the form of a… and in short – we don’t need people “shoulding” on us. The challenge here as you think of these people is not to “cut off” or remove them from your life – this does not lead anyone to greatness or self-discovery. Rather, begin by attempting to become a mirror yourself and in doing so you will change your interactions with them. Don’t be a wall in return, or a door that tells them how wrong they are; instead realize that they may not have a mirror in their life, helping them discover intimacy with the King and their personal compass for life. (the book Leadership & Self-Deception helps us to get out of this box) You can begin to give them the gift of listening more of the time… often this feels like circular conversation at the beginning, but this is much like speaking in parables. (There is a fine line in writing this not as a “door”, but as a mirror, inviting you to look at your relationship in a new light of how these interactions affect you.)
Who in your life truly listens and reflects with objectivity? These people are not quick to judge or predict an outcome of your actions. They can walk with you through a door or let you bounce off a wall, even if they had a better or different answer. Mirrors reflect what “is” rather than trying to improve what maybe broken or predicting what is next. (If I have been a door in your life, please forgive me, further where I have been a mirror and you wanted a door, please forgive me if you have been frustrated or even angered by me…) In the Kingdom of God, we are called to be image bearer’s of the King, to reflect His Glory. This reflection is seen as His righteousness, but is often exchanged for right answers and actions. We can learn to reflect the King’s Glory by being a mirror in other people’s life, in this His righteousness will be shown in our lives and given to those around us.
If you have too many walls in your life – learn to put up mirrors…. As a Kingdom leader – learn to be a relational mirror in the life of others. Will you listen to another without giving an answer? Will you help someone discover they have the answer within them – without telling them what it is…? Attempt to sit in silence with God and let Him reflect you – what do you see, what do you want to see?
Here is a few steps to help you move in the direction to become a mirror for others in the Kingdom.
- Learn not to fear the mirror… stand in front a real mirror and attempt to stare at yourself (want a real challenge? – take your clothes off) but seriously – how long you can stand in your own reflection. This will help you with your awareness, when being a mirror to others, be aware of how uncomfortable it may be for them… but still necessary.
- Shut Up – And Listen… when another is speaking – don’t try to one-up them with what is going on in your life… if no one is listening to you – then this will be a more difficult challenge – Therefore – find someone to listen to you – God is truly your best option here. God rarely interrupts and yet, by talking to him you can get the greatest clarity possible… Read – “Can you hear me? By Brad Jersak.
- Lead with your ears – read this post and the two which precede it.
END NOTE: Further reflection in the realm of parenting:
How do we become or act like mirror’s for our children’s lives, rather than walls or doors.
Walls say NO –more than yes… so you may need to reshape your conversations with your children. First, even when the answer is No – have 3 ways to say Yes to your child in this same conversation. This will take work, if you are truly going to make your Yes statements relative to the No.
Doors say YES – and make it possible. … in creating opportunities for your children be cautious of doing all the work necessary to open the door. In doing so you deny them the opportunity to learn along the process. In our house – we have found the most success in this area with regards to money and helping out kids save up to purchase an item. Even when we disagreed (not violently, but thought it was a waste of money) we still moved to say yes, but guiding them to see the bigger picture – sometimes they still purchased after saving, sometimes not, other times they ended up saving longer and spending more money than ever imaged…. Parents have a great responsibility for our children, may we demonstrate that God is the only true door, and we all must find Him. As parents we must learn to share our doorway stories in which God lead us to new opportunities after we bounced off the walls (and we must share this too).