The New Year’s Mirror
You flip a switch and the harsh, unforgiving lights of your bathroom fill the room. Your eyes struggle to adjust. There you are standing in front of the mirror like you do every day, but this is no ordinary day. It is January 1st. A new year, yet also just the same old you.
Immediately after exiting the shower, you take this opportunity to assess yourself and consider if the whos, whats, wheres, and hows of your life match up with your shoulds. If they do not, perhaps this year you should make a change, a resolution, a new beginning. Before there can be lofty goals and plans to help you meet them, before you can open up Pinterest for ideas, or Instagram for inspiration, or Facebook to tell all of your friends of the new leaf you will be turning over, you have to stand before the mirror.
In the mirror, you see things for what they are. Apart from the mirror, your perceptions of Self are more often lies than truth. Do you need to lose weight? The jeans you spent last year progressively stretching out say no, but the mirror tells a different tale. If it wasn't for that mirror you could be happy with whatever you are at that moment, but in the mirror, you see every flaw, every imperfection, every problem. The mirror is harsh because it shows you who you are, and it doesn't care how you feel about it. You may grow to hate the mirror for just this reason. You know that if you could just be free of its continual judgment you might be able to be happy no matter what. Yet there it is, showing you truth each and every day; and there you are, begging for a reprieve.
The Law of God is a mirror. Every day when you encounter it you are shown who you are. In its reflection, you can see every flaw, every imperfection, every problem. You may feel that you are a good person until you step before the mirror and inquire, for what does the Law reflect back to you? It will show you the evil in your actions and the evil in your desires, and the evil in your motivations. It is for this reason that you may hate the Law of God. You know that if you could just be free of it, you could be happy with yourself no matter what. Yet the Law speaks continually, always accusing.
Without the Law, We Are Blinded to Self-Righteousness
May God spare you from your desire to be free from His Law. It is through the Law that you gain a knowledge of sin. Apart from the Law, you will persist in the most miserable state of life: self-righteousness. This state never seems like a miserable one at the time, because you generally don’t realize you're caught in it. Your social media feeds are there to help you perpetuate your self-image. To your family and friends who are forced to endure you in real life, your self-righteousness is far easier to spot. Like your comfy jeans, self-righteousness just feels good, it isn't judging you or demanding you to be something you're not. But in such a state, you are damned to remain exactly what you are.
Without understanding God's will as separate from your own, your human default is to project your beliefs onto God. In doing this you flip your relationship with God on its head. Rather than being created in God's image you attempt to create Him in yours. Of course, this is nothing more than good old-fashioned idolatry. By giving you the Law, God shows you what right and wrong look like. The Law teaches us to know God and to know ourselves. The hard part is this: what do you do once you see yourself for who you are? When the Law forces you to take a long hard look at yourself, do you like what you see? If you like righteousness, then you will not like the way you look when you are held up to the Word of God.
It is in the harsh light of the Law that you see what must be done, and most often, the truth that you have not done it. This is an uncomfortable place and an uncomfortable feeling, but you were right about one thing: If you could be free of it you may be happy no matter what.
Freedom from the Law does not come through personal perfection, it comes through Jesus Christ. The answer is not a better you, but a you who is united to God through Christ. In the Law you are shown who you are, a sinner. This truth is not given in hopes that you would devise a plan for your life that would put Jesus out of work. It is given so that you would finally give up on your plans for improving this life and turn to Jesus to receive a new one.
Stepping out of the shower into a better life and a better body is not what God desires for you. Rather, He desires real life given to you as you are pulled out of the waters of baptism. This is the real new beginning: not the improvement of what came before, but the start of something else entirely. Living in the grace of Christ is where you will find that blessed life you dream of working to acquire. Give up, surrender to the truth that Jesus has already done the work and accept God’s blessings.
“Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.” Psalm 32:1