“…Keep yourselves from idols. Amen.”, 1 John 5:21
In Greek mythology, Narcissus was a hunter, renowned for his beauty. According to the legend, he was walking in the woods when Echo, a mountain nymph, saw him, fell deeply in love, and followed him. Narcissus sensed he was being followed and shouted “Who’s there?” Echo repeated “Who’s there?” She eventually revealed her identity and attempted to embrace him. He, however, immediately rejected her. Talk about an old tune. Therefore, heartbroken, she spent the rest of her life in lonely glens until nothing but an echo sound remained of her.
Meanwhile, Nemesis, the goddess of revenge, learned about this situation and decided to punish Narcissus. (Ah, yes, vengeance). She lured him to a pool where he saw his own reflection; not understanding it was only an image, he fell in love with it. (Typical, huh?)
However, he eventually realized his love could not be addressed and died.
“As water reflects a face, so a man’s heart reflects the man.”, Proverbs 27:19
And you thought you had issues.
I’ve given much thought to Narcissism over the years. And nothing puts it more into focus than recovery from my disordered eating and body image issues.
Since childhood, I’ve had an intense love/hate relationship with the mirror and my own refection staring back at me. I’ve rejected that image, critiqued it, admired it and observed things about it which weren’t even there in the first place. When I was at my lowest weight from anorexia, all I could see was a distorted pot belly stomach, even though my ribs protruded and my waistline was twenty inches.
My body and my mind’s eye were two different things. I couldn’t see past my idol. Narcissism and its culprit, rampant inferiority, were clouding every kind of vision and perception. Distortion was, therefore, the only result.
I relate to Narcissus, so caught up in the reflection, in the vision of self-defined beauty; it’s an obsession. And, to one degree or another, we’re all caught up in it. How many of us look in a mirror, experiencing a range of emotions at our reflections? We have an acceptable image standard in our minds and we strive to create it as our reality. We preen. We comb, brush, yank, tweeze, apply, conceal, line, highlight, tease and style ourselves into that version of an aesthetically pleasing appearance.
“…it is the land of graven images, and they are mad upon their idols.”, Jeremiah 50:38
And that’s just the bathroom mirror; forget about a full length one! And yes, we’re usually left disappointed with the finished product. Why? It’s because it’s an idol. We give our strength to it and/or gather our strength from it: idolatry. And we’re warned not to mess with it…
“But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols…”, Acts 15:20
Somehow, somewhere within our psyches, however, is this drive to be God, to have things fashioned according to our preferences and whims. We want to control. We want to be our own God.
Spiritually, however, there’s this one tiny little detail; we can’t be God…
“…we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one.”, 1 Corinthians 8:4
That, however, need not squash our value and estimation of our individual worth. Just because we’re not God doesn’t mean we aren’t like God…
“And God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…’”, Genesis 1:26
“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.”, Genesis 1:27
Genesis, indeed, guides us into an accurate self-assessment. We don’t call the shots, but we resemble the One Who does!
That means we need to focus on Him. We already take after Him. But living in in fallen world has taught us lies, and, in that batch, there have been a slew of them about ourselves:
We’re not good enough.
We’re the only ones like this; everyone else, however, meets that acceptable standard.
So, the school of life has many lessons, if we’re willing to learn them, on revelation of our true selves.
“And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”, Romans 12:2
No smoke and mirrors, just accurate reflection of God’s glory. Just like the countless hours we’ve spent staring at the mirror, admiring, tweaking and obsessing about our reflections, we, likewise, need to study our true reflection, God’s determination about who we are.
“Since you were precious in my sight… I have loved you…”, Isaiah 43:4
“I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made…”, Psalm 139:14
“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.”, 2 Corinthians 3:18
This takes work. Don’t get me wrong; we don’t need to work to become valuable, lovable or worthwhile. We are that already. But we need massive lessons in learning how to receive it as unshakable, reassuring Truth. And that takes some studying in the Mirror of God Himself.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”, John 1:1
It’s an ongoing process, but it’s one which tells us we will not find hope in our inferior Narcissism, but instead in God alone.
“Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.”, Psalm 62:1-2