Over the years, I’ve disclosed much of my mental health struggle. I’ve been open about my history of anorexia/bulimia, depression, PTSD, and suicidality. The one thing I’ve failed to mention is body dysmorphia. It’s the one thing that I have not overcome. I’ve recovered from the eating disorder, depression, and suicidality. My PTSD symptoms are minimal and I recognize them when they are triggered. However, when it comes to my body, what I see is distorted; I simply cannot see what other people see. I’ve never managed to see my body as anything other than “fat and ugly” for any length of time. Occasionally, I catch a glimpse of what others might see, but it never lasts. The mirror is not my friend and, no matter how much I want to change this, I simply cannot. I’ve learned to live with it, instead.
Mirrors are helpful most of the time. We benefit from being able to make sure that we look “presentable” before going into public spaces. Sometimes, though, the mirror reveals unpleasant truths. I’m not talking about the distortions I see in the mirror; I know these are false. I’m referring more to the metaphoric mirror, the kind of mirror Nathan held up to David. The one that shows our character flaws and reflects our sins clearly. This kind of mirror is a rare and true gift, if we are brave enough to gaze into it.
David’s sin against Uriah and Bathsheba was egregious. How David didn’t know this until Nathan pointed it out, is a mystery. But to have sex with another person’s spouse and then have that person killed and made to look like an accident of war—this is unmistakable sin. And, yet, David was oblivious. Perhaps he was caught up in what he wanted and didn’t bother to think about what Uriah and Bathsheba wanted. Perhaps he lost sight of his spiritual health because his ego and libido took over. Who knows. It doesn’t make a lot of difference why David needed Nathan to hold up a spiritual mirror. The good news is that Nathan did. Who holds up that mirror for each of us? For our communities? Are we unaware of our sins until we are called to account? Or do we see sins that do not exist, a spiritual dysmorphia if you will?
Jesus held up a similar spiritual mirror to his disciples when they found him after he went away by himself after the feeding of the 5000. John tells us that the disciples asked Jesus when he went to the other side of the sea. Jesus answered them not with a temporal response but with a kind of indictment. The disciples went looking for Jesus, not because of who Jesus was. Rather, they sought him out because he filled their bellies. Jesus wanted to fill their spirits with the Bread of Life. They didn’t know they needed it until Jesus made them re-evaluate their motives for discipleship.
This week Simone Biles dropped out of the All Around competition in the Olympic Games. She cited her need to take care of herself, particularly, her mental health. She’s gotten a lot of criticism for doing so. Yet, if she competed without being able to have her head in the game, she could seriously injure herself. She made the right choice for herself, even if her fans are disappointed. Why is it that so many people are unable to support an athlete taking care of herself? She’s the best gymnast to have ever competed. If she says she’s not in the right mental space to compete, why not support her. Are we afraid to look into that particular mirror ourselves? Are we afraid to admit our mental health vulnerabilities? Do we still believe that they are sinful and we are supposed to cover them up and go on with life as usual? What are our motives here for nonexistent or reluctant support of Simone?
What sins are we unaware of? What sins do we mistakenly hold against ourselves? When do we actively seek out Jesus? Is it for the Bread of Life or for some other purpose? Who holds the spiritual mirror for us? What helps us to “see” your reflection accurately? Where might we need a Nathan to push us into accuracy and honesty?
While I’m not a fan of literal mirrors because my brain does not allow me to see what others see, I am a fan of spiritual mirrors. Every once in a while, we need to take an accurate assessment of our spiritual lives and the judgements we make about ourselves and others. We need to ask ourselves if we seek Jesus when it suits us or in response to Jesus’ call to bring Divine Love into the world. And, sometimes, we need to listen to the Nathans in our lives to be sure we are not deceiving ourselves, intentionally or otherwise.
Why not take a look now?
RCL – Year B – Tenth Sunday after Pentecost – August 1, 2021