Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Finding a Better Mirror

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Watch Nancy teach this series.

Leslie Basham: It’s easy to care too much about the image you present to the world, but Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth says the so-called “mirrors” we look to have nothing to offer!

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: You see, at the end of the day, no matter how beautiful, how winsome, how likable, how successful we are—or how well-mannered and accomplished your children or grandchildren may be—these mirrors are empty. They are vain; they are futile; they are fleeting; they are changing . . . and they don’t satisfy!

This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Choosing Forgiveness, for September 28, 2018.

Yesterday, Nancy taught from Exodus 38 about the ministering women who gave up their most prized possessions—their mirrors—for the building of the tabernacle. That leads us to consider: What mirrors do you have in your life, and are you willing to surrender them to God? Here’s Nancy to continue exploring this topic.

Nancy: “Mirror, mirror on the wall; who’s the fairest of them all?” Who remembers what fairy tale those words come from?

Ladies: Snow White.

Nancy: Snow White. . . a fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm, first published in 1812. There are various versions and translations of that fairy tale, I’ve discovered, but the gist of it (for those who may not remember) is that the queen gives birth to a daughter named Snow White (she’s named for her pale, white skin).

Then the queen dies when the child is born, and about a year later the king marries another woman. This queen is beautiful, but she is (according to the fairy tale) proud and overbearing. She can’t stand the idea of anyone being more beautiful than she is.

So every morning, she stands and looks at herself in this magic mirror and says, “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?” Who’s the most beautiful of all? And the glass assures her, “You, oh Queen, are the fairest in the land!” Well, the queen is happy because she knows that the mirror is telling her the truth; she is the most beautiful woman in the land!

Well, Snow White, her stepdaughter, grows up and becomes more and more beautiful . . . even more beautiful than her vain stepmother, the Queen. And so one day, the Queen asks her mirror: “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest (the most beautiful) of all?”

This time, the mirror responds, still speaking the truth, “Oh Queen, Snow White is the fairest of them all.” Well, the Queen becomes green with envy, and her heart is filled with hatred for the girl. She sets out to have the child killed so that no one in the land will be more beautiful than she.

It’s actually kind of a gruesome ending to this fairy tale. It’s not a really pretty story at all. Remember, it is a fairy tale. It portrays a worldly ideal of beauty, not a true view of beauty. And, of course, mirrors don’t talk! (laughter) Or . . . do they? Studies show that we women spend a lot of time listening to what our mirrors tell us.

Let me just re-set for a moment. If you were not with us yesterday, we’re looking at a fairly obscure verse in Exodus chapter 38, verse 8. It’s set right there in the middle of this lengthy passage about the children of Israel building a tabernacle for the presence of the Lord.

They took an offering. They brought their contributions—things the Egyptians had given to them when they told them to get out of the country. They had taken these items with them over the Red Sea crossing and into the wilderness. Then they brought them as voluntary offerings to give to the Lord to be used for the making of this tabernacle.

And we see in Exodus 38, verse 8, that the basin—this laver, this bronze basin and its stand—were made from the mirrors of the ministering women who ministered, or served, in the entrance of the tent of meeting.

We talked yesterday about what this laver was, this bronze basin, and who these ministering women were. Today I want to focus our attention on this whole idea of mirrors. Now, this word in the Hebrew is from a root word that means “to see.” Some older translations say these were “looking glasses.”

But this was before the invention of looking glasses and glass mirrors as we know them today. Those were not widely used until about the 1500s. So these old-time mirrors were not made out of glass. They were polished bronze plates—polished so that you could see a reflection.

Some years ago, an English professor at CalTech researched the history of looking glasses in literature. She published her findings on women, mirrors, and identity. She concluded that, “there’s an intimate relationship between women and mirrors.”

She said, “A woman carries on a life-long interrogation with her reflection. Am I right?” Was she right? She also pointed out that in John Milton’s epic, Paradise Lost, Eve’s first act after being created (before she saw another human face, including that of Adam), her first act in this poem was to lean down to look at her reflection in a clear, smooth lake.

And this researcher concluded, “I think we are all daughters of Eve.” Now, of course, Milton’s account is an apocryphal one—that’s not in the Scripture. But I think it’s not far from the mark when it comes to analyzing human nature. Studies show that women look at themselves in the mirror far more often than men do!

In fact, let me just ask: How many of you here in the room with us have a mirror of some sort with you? I want to see them. Take them out, find it in your purse. Dig quick! Hold it up. I want to see these mirrors. Yes . . . you can count a phone. Let me see your mirrors. There’s a mirror, there’s a compact, mirror . . . lots and lots of mirrors! Reflections, right?

By the way, let me ask, how many of the guys in the room have mirrors on you? That’s what I thought; I don’t see any. You don’t have a mirror in your pocket, Mike? No?

Okay, listen, we don’t even have to have a mirror! We can catch our reflection in a store window or other people’s glasses (and they think you’re just looking in their eyes, but you’re looking at yourself) or a smartphone screen (I often will use this for applying lipstick; yeah, it works for that).

There was a study conducted by a British skincare company that polled 2,000 women. It showed that on average, women check their reflections around eight times a day—whether it was in a mirror or another surface. I actually think that number seems kind of low. But that was what they came up with.

One in ten of the women surveyed admitted that they can’t walk past a car without looking to check their hair or their makeup in the glass. The same number, one in ten, said that they use their compact mirror at least ten times a day at work, usually for touching up their hair or makeup.

Half of the women said that they won’t leave home without a mirror in their purse . . . and that’s about what it was here in the room when I asked you a few minutes ago. At least half have a mirror with you. We’re always looking at ourselves!

Yet, interestingly, three-quarters of the women who participated in this survey said that they hate looking in the mirror! Nearly 40 percent said that it negatively affected their self-confidence when they do look in the mirror.

So why do we keep looking? Why we are so driven to see our own reflection? Well, there are a lot of reasons for that: some of those are heart issues, some of those are cultural issues. I think as women, we feel some social pressure, because people pay more attention to how women look than to how men look.

When the President and the First Lady travel, people are not usually commenting on what the President wears, but they are invariably commenting on what the First Lady wears, and her accessories. I feel this at conferences or when I have to be on the platform.

I think, People don’t care at all what men wear. But women are scrutinizing women and looking . . . There’s some pressure there, am I right? It’s a feeling of self-consciousness. And then there’s a pressure that’s created by this constant exposure to unrealistic, Photoshopped images of beauty.

We see them in the media, on TV, on billboards, in fashion magazines.

And this image, which our mothers and our grandmothers saw much less of, is set before us constantly today. It is . . . get this! . . . impossible to attain! It’s impossible! One writer said,

“The current media ideal of thinness for women is achievable by less than five-percent of the female population! No matter how much you may starve yourself or diet or exercise, you cannot look that way! And in fact, many of the women who you think look that way don’t actually look that way because the pictures have been Photoshopped.”

We have a tendency to compare ourselves to the standard of beauty that’s being promoted by the world.

And what does that result in? Discontent, dissatisfaction with our own appearance. We are deeply insecure, when it comes down to it. We compare ourselves to others—whether others that we see in the media or others sitting in this room. And I don’t think that men do this in quite the same way, certainly not as it relates to physical characteristics.

In fact, there are interesting studies about how men see themselves very differently in mirrors than women see themselves. Women see themselves much more critically when they look in a mirror than men see themselves.

So we’re insecure; we compare ourselves to others. We have this desire to measure up, to be affirmed, to be attractive, to be valued. We’re constantly looking in a mirror to see how we look compared to someone else—their hair, their clothing styles, their coolness, their thinness, their whatever.

And when it comes down to it, some of that is just plain old vanity, conceit, pride in our appearance, excessive concern about how we look. Now, as with all things, there’s a balance here, because Scripture doesn’t suggest that there should be no concern with how we look.

If you are married, I would say it matters that you care about how you look for your husband and that you take some concern. But there’s this line (and I think only God’s Spirit can help us know where it’s over the line) of excessive self-obsession with how we look.

There’s a word you’ve heard that, I think, explains a lot of this; it’s “narcissism.” A narcissist, according to the dictionary, is “a person who has an excessive interest in, or admiration of, themself; an inordinate fascination with one’s self; excessive self-love.”

Where did that word come from? It came from a character in Greek mythology, Narcissus. There are variations on this story as I looked it up, but the essence is that he was a hunter that was known for his beauty. But he was also proud, and he was disdainful of anyone who loved him.

Well, one day he was walking by a spring of water and he stooped down to get a drink. He saw his own reflection in the water, and he fell in love with it. He wouldn’t let anybody else love him; he couldn’t love others, but he saw his own reflection and he fell in love with it!

At first, he didn’t realize it was just a reflection. When he did, he became dejected that his love could not become fulfilled. So he pined away until he died, or as some versions tell it, until he killed himself. Listen, obsession with self leads inevitably to either self-love or another version of self-love, which is self-loathing. Either is dangerous, and either can be deadly!

Now, I want to broaden our consideration here to say we’re not just talking about literal mirrors or looking-glasses. There are other mirrors that we use to assess our worth, our value, and our beauty. For example, photos.

When you see a photo, a group photo, and you were in the group, when you see the photo, who do you look at? Is it just me? (laughter) Do you look at yourself? You want to see how you looked in that photo; because as we’re standing there with the picture being taken, we can’t tell: is something askew, is something awry, is our hair windblown?

But when we look at the photo, it’s a mirror, and it tells us how we looked—and we care about that. My husband and I attended wedding recently, and I’ve been seeing some of those pictures on Facebook that people have been sharing.

I will confess that the first person I look at in those photos is not the bride, it’s not the bride’s mother, it’s not the bride’s dad, it’s not the bridesmaids . . . it’s me! And invariably, then, there’s this sense of comparison—evaluating hair and weight and wardrobe. It’s a mirror that can allow me to become obsessively self-focused. It’s deadly!

Here’s another mirror that speaks to a lot of us, and it’s the scale. The scales tell us, each time we step on them, how we measure up. Then we determine, “You lost a pound; you gained a pound.” If you lost a pound you’re ecstatic! If you gained a pound you’re depressed; it wrecks your whole day!

It’s a mirror, and it’s talking to us and it’s telling us something we think about our value or our worth or our beauty. It’s dangerous. It can be deadly!

Here’s another mirror a lot of us let talk to us way too much, and that’s the opinions of others: parents, siblings, our mate, our children, co-workers, friends, what people say to us, what they say about us, what we hear that they said about us, what they text, what we come across that they didn’t know that we heard, but it comes back to us.

Those things can haunt us, am I right? Those are mirrors. They talk to us, and they say, “You’re worth less, or you’re worth more.” They can expand or decrease our sense of our worth or our value.

Here’s another one: social media; it’s a mirror. The “likes” and “followers” and “shares” on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram--these are a reflection of what others think of us, how much they think of us. Some of us are constantly checking, constantly looking in the “mirror” because this makes us feel good or it makes us feel bad. It determines how we feel about ourselves.

Here’s another mirror: positions or titles or a paycheck at work. This is a mirror for men, sometimes, more than for women. Men are maybe more driven to care about how they do at work, but we care about how we’re valued at work, how we’re viewed. It’s a mirror.

Moms, here’s another mirror, your kids—how well-behaved they are, how successful they are, their academic achievements, their accomplishments in sports, what college they get into. Or, conversely, their failures, their poor behavior. Moms can easily feel, “This is a mirror that reflects on me!” And it can be encouraging, or it can be embarrassing.

These are mirrors that “talk” to us. The question is: How much do we look to those mirrors to tell us who we are, what we’re worth, what our value is? You see, at the end of the day, no matter how beautiful, how winsome, how likable, how successful we are, how well-mannered and accomplished your children or grandchildren may be, these mirrors are empty.

They are vain; they are futile; they are fleeting; they are changing, and they don’t satisfy. Oh, they may for a moment, but just as quickly as you lost a pound and you were ecstatic, you can gain a pound and be depressed. They change; they don’t satisfy!

Proverbs 31:30 hints at this when it says to us, “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain . . .” It’s empty; it doesn’t last; it doesn’t tell us our true worth. “. . . but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” That’s a whole different focus!

You see, there are two different types of focus here: there’s a woman who focuses on her charm, her beauty, her natural physical or personality traits or characteristics, or those of her children, the opinions of others. She’s focused on herself, and it says that’s empty; it’s fleeting; it’s vain; it’s futile.

But a woman who fears the Lord, a woman who fixes her eyes on God, a woman who lives constantly thinking about Him rather than about herself, is a woman who will be encouraged. She’ll be praised; she will be lifted up. She is a virtuous woman!

Scripture talks in the New Testament about the foolishness of comparing ourselves to others—these human mirrors. The book of 2 Corinthians 12, verse 10, says: “They measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise” (KJV). It’s foolish to compare ourselves to others!

Yes, somebody else has gorgeous hair, somebody else has, very stylish and up-to-date clothing, someone else has this great outgoing personality, somebody else has these amazing children who never do anything wrong—at least on Facebook, that’s what you would think!

And we compare ourselves, measuring ourselves by ourselves. That is foolish. It is not wise. We’re listening to the wrong mirrors. Scripture teaches us that communion with God, lingering in His presence, brings a new holy obsession—not a self-obsession, but a God-consciousness, and a freedom from self-consciousness.

See, we’re not talking about that we should just think less of ourselves or that we should think poorly of ourselves. We’re saying, we ought not to matter to ourselves. We matter to God, but God is what and who ought to matter supremely to us.

You see this illustrated in Exodus 34, verse 29, where it says that as Moses came down from the mountain, where he had just spent forty days and nights in the presence of the Lord, “[He] did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God.”

He didn’t have a mirror. The people could see it. He couldn’t see it, because he wasn’t looking at himself, he was looking at God! God gave him this radiance and this beauty, and he didn’t know it.

Wouldn’t that be bliss, to know that your life radiates and reflects the glory of God, but you don’t see it. The other people around you do, but you’re not always looking, “Do they see it? Do they see It? Is it there? Do I have that glory on me; am I radiating? Am I looking like a good, beautiful Christian woman?” Forget it! Think about Him!

You linger in His presence, you focus on Him, you reflect His beauty through you, and you will be beautiful in the ways that matter! Moses’ face reflected the glory of God. It’s not in looking at ourselves, contemplating ourselves, fixating on ourselves, obsessing about ourselves that we become more beautiful, but it’s in looking to Christ that we develop one holy, divine obsession.

As we look at Him instead of ourselves, we will reflect His glory. There’s a verse in Psalm 34 that I often think about as I’m getting ready to go into a photo shoot. (Our team will tell you it’s not my favorite thing at all to get in front of a camera, and I can become so self-obsessed!)

I love this verse in Psalm 34, and I often quote it when I’m sitting there with cameras snapping. People are saying, “We need this for Facebook,” or “We need this for that.” Psalm 34:5 says, “Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.”

We don’t get that by fixating on ourselves, but by fixing our eyes on Christ. And you see that in 2 Corinthians chapter 3, verse 18. This is in the context of talking about Moses whose face shone with the glory of God. It says it wasn’t just for Moses; it’s for us, too.

We all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord [not seeing ourselves; seeing Him] we are being transformed [transfigured, metamorphosed] into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit (NASB).

Did you get that? As we gaze on Him, as we contemplate Him, as we behold as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, we are changed—from the inside-out, not just our outward appearance. Because that’s all this mirror can capture, is the outward appearance. It can’t tell you anything about my heart.

But the glory of the Lord, the beauty of Christ, will transform us from the inside out so we have beautiful hearts, radiant faces, that reflect the glory of God. It’s a process. We’re being transformed from glory to glory to glory. It’s a lifelong process by the power of His Holy Spirit.

I love that old gospel chorus, “Let the Beauty of Jesus Be Seen in Me.”

Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me,
All His wonderful passion and purity;
O Thou Savior divine, All my being refine,
Till the beauty of Jesus be seen in me.
(Albert Orsborn)

James 1 tells us that the Word of God is like a mirror; it shows us the truth about ourselves. This is the mirror you ought to be looking into. It shows us Christ, and it transforms us!

So, Exodus 38:8: “He made the basin of bronze and its stand of bronze, from the mirrors of the ministering women who ministered [or served] in the entrance of the tent of meeting.” A mirror is anything that we use to focus more intently on ourselves.

So my question is, are we going to hold on to our earthly human mirrors? Are we going to make much of them? Are we going to be using them perpetually? Or will we choose, so to speak, to give them up?

That doesn’t mean you never look at your face in the mirror, but it means that our obsession is not with ourselves, but with Christ. Will we give them up for Christ’s sake, for the sake of the house that He is building, so others can see His glory, be washed by the laver of His grace? Let’s pray.

Your Word says, Lord, “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him [to You!] be glory forever [and ever!]” (Rom. 11:6 ESV). And so, Lord, we pray that You would check our hearts, speak to our hearts about the mirrors. What are the mirrors saying to us? What are we listening to?

What mirrors are we using? What mirrors are we turning to get our sense of our value and our worth and our well-being? And, Lord, may our fixation—our obsession—be not with ourselves but with Christ, with Your glory, with Your beauty.

Then, let Your beauty be seen in us and through us that the world may look at us and not see us, but be enamored with Christ! In whose name we pray, amen.

Leslie: What mirrors do you turn to, to find your sense of value? Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has been praying that you’ll look to Jesus for your worth. If you missed Part 1 of today’s message, go to ReviveOurHearts.com. There you’ll find the transcript and audio of both programs in this series.

Well, did you catch the livestream last night of True Woman ’18? You know, it’s not too late to join us! The conference continues all day today and into Saturday morning. You’ll hear biblical messages from speakers such as Mary Kassian, Jackie Hill Perry, and Pastor Eric Mason.

There will also be engaging dramas based on the session topics presented by Acts of Renewal. You don’t want to miss this opportunity to experience this special tenth anniversary conference: The Truth That Sets Us Free.

Only livestream viewers will get in on exclusive backstage interaction and interviews with our speakers and guests. Visit ReviveOurHearts.com for all the details.

“Hallelujah!” That word gets used a lot! Church-goers say it in prayer, or sometimes just when they’re happy. Sometimes people use it to mock preachers. But using that word is very serious. Nancy will talk about it on Monday. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants you to find your worth in Jesus. The program is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.








 

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