What Do You See When You Look in the Mirror?

What do you see when you look in the mirror?

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Many times when I look in the mirror, I do not like what I see.  My neck is showing my age.  My nose is too big.  My pores get larger every year it seems.  My hair is very thin (so I put on a wig and then I feel better).

Female dissatisfaction with appearance – poor body-image – begins at a very early age. Human infants begin to recognize themselves in mirrors at about two years old. Female humans begin to dislike what they see only a few years later. The latest surveys show very young girls are going on diets because they think they are fat and unattractive. In one American survey, 81% of ten-year-old girls had already dieted at least once.  Often we compare ourselves to other women and feel we come up short.

Our culture – perfect figure, face, bright white teeth!  We are often felt that we should be nurturing mothers while maintaining a successful career and our homes should look like a page from Home & Gardens.

Many times we are comparing ourselves to other women and feel we come up short.

The stay-at-home mom looks at the career woman who is contributing to the family income and may have an exciting career and spends her days talking to other adults and she often thinks negatively – “I’m just a housewife, contributing nothing to society.  Life is passing me by.”

While the career woman looks at the stay-at-mom baking cookies with the kids and busy in school events and feel that she is somehow less of a mother because her kids are in day care.

There is the woman happily married who looks at the single woman and thinks how much fun she must have, free to travel, spend money on herself and wonders what if I had waited longer before getting married or having children.

And the single woman looks at the happily married woman and thinks how much fuller and happier her life must be with a husband and a family.  She wonders will I ever get married and have a family?

We are constantly looking at ourselves and feeling we have come up short.  We are not just as pretty as the woman next door, not as creative, not as smart, not as good a Christian……..

I have a dear, close friend who I love.  But sometimes when I visit her home, I feel like such a failure.  Her house is immaculate.  Windows sparkle (she cleans them every month).  There is never a spot of dust anywhere.  She changes her pictures in every room monthly to reflect the season.  Not just fall, winter, spring and summer.  No.  She has snowmen for January, valentines for February, four-leave clovers for March, and on and on each month.  When we have a meal the table is decorated as if she was giving a formal party.  Each person even has their own small salt and pepper shaker at their plate.

It has taken me awhile to see that her gift set is that of hospitality.  She makes every visit special with her specially designed table and wonderful meals.

But I have talents she does not have.  I can play a mean piano and bring some joy to residents in the nursing homes I visit.  I have had the joy of mentoring many younger women in their walk with God.

It has been a struggle but I have finally come to appreciate my friend for her gifts but also be thankful for what gifts God has given me.  Each is equally important.

In God’s eyes we are more than what we see in the mirror.  More than just a weary mother, a worn-out working woman, a divorced and single mother, a young woman searching to find what you want to be in your life, a widow struggling to make ends meet, an older woman facing the aging process which slows you down and tells your years are numbered.

For You shaped me, inside and out.  You knitted me together in my mother’s womb long before I took my first breath. I will offer You my grateful heart, for I am Your unique creation, filled with wonder and awe.  You have approached even the smallest details with excellence;  Your works are wonderful; I carry this knowledge deep within my soul.   You see all things; nothing about me was hidden from You as I took shape in secret, carefully crafted in the heart of the earth before I was born from its womb.    Psalm 139:13-15

It is God himself who has made us what we are and given us new lives from Christ Jesus; and long ages ago he planned that we should spend these lives in helping others.  We are the product of His hand.

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.    Ephesians 2:10

In the ancient world, women were considered more property than persons.  It was basically felt that women were created for man’s benefit and their job was to meet his needs.   They were purchased with a dowry, they had to have total obedience to the will of their husbands, and they could not participate in any governmental or political actions. In ancient Palestine a man could divorce a woman by giving her a hand-written note (for an offense a slight as burning the evening meal) and their testimony was not permissible in a court of law.

That is one of the beautiful things about Christianity.  Where Christianity has gone, women have slowly been given greater and greater appreciation and respect.   I must admit the emphasis is probably on slowly.  The Bible clearly gives a very high view of women.  But, unfortunately, even in Christianity I think we as women have often been seen as somehow not quite as important as men.

To see how important we women are in God’s plan, we need to go all the way back to the first book in the Bible, Genesis, the book of beginnings.

Many look at the story of the creation of mankind and feel that God created man, then kind of as a afterthought created women so man would have someone to “help” him, someone who would come along side him and help him in his work, his dreams, his plans.  It is many times stressed that God created man first, then woman so somehow man is more important, has a right to be more in charge.

Maybe a better way to think of the creation of man and woman would be this:

God made man, stepped back and looked at his creation and said, “I can do better than this” and created woman. 

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The Bible is unique in its depiction of women’s valued status as a complementary companion. No other ancient text from the Middle East offers commentary on the creation of women. It is in the Bible that we learn of the important role women have had since the beginning of human existence.

Women were NOT a second thought in God’s creation.  Were were in His plan from the very beginning.

When God spoke of creating man and woman in His image, He indicated that image was to be  reflected by the combination of male and female.

Then we come to chapter 2 which gives more detail about the creation of mankind.  Up to this point after each day of creation the bible indicates that God said, “It was good”  But when we come to the creation of Adam, God said something was not good.  It was not good for man to be alone.  He needed someone a helper suitable for him.

At this point the animals were all brought before Adam and we are told he named them.  The Bible also indicates that no helper for Adam was found among the animals so God put Adam into a deep, took a rib from his side and made woman.

Think about it for a moment.  Do you really think God expected Adam to find a helper among the animals?  Almighty God already knew there would be no companion for Adam among the animals.  He had already said His image would be reflected by a male and a female.  I think God brought the animals before Adam just to let him see that he needed someone like him to work with him in carrying out God’s command to subdue the earth.

Genesis 2:18 – “God said, “It is not good for man to be alone.  I will make him a helper comparable to Him.”

  • I will make a companion for him, a helper suited to his needs.
  • I will make a helper (one who balances him- a counterpart who is suitable and complementary to him).

In English, the word “help” has a broad range of meaning.  It can refer to a simple, modest act such as opening a door for someone you see whose arms are loaded down with shopping bags.  It can also refer to something much more vital and significant such as saving the life of someone drowning.

But what did the Hebrew word used here that is translated as “help” really mean?  That word ‘ezer” is used 21 times in the OT.  Twice it is used for the woman.  Three times it is used of people helping (or failing to help) in life-threatening situations.  Sixteen times it is used in reference to God as a helper.  Without exception, when the Bible uses the word “help” it is talking about a vital, powerful kind of help. Yet when ezer is applied to the first woman, its meaning is usually diminished to fit with traditional and cultural views of women’s roles.

The second important Hebrew word in this verse, translated “fit” is kenegdo. It literally means “according to the opposite of him.” In other words, the focus is on an appropriate match. Eve was not created above or below Adam; she was complementary.

So I want to remind you – You are NOT a second thought in God’s creation.  Know that you are a daughter of  God, designed from the very beginning to be a vital part of His reflection in this world.  Without you, His image would be incomplete.

 

 

I’m Special – So Are You

In today’s reading for Lent I read the creation story and Adam and Eve’s failure to obey God’s commands.

Although I have read this story countless times I was struck today by the difference the story gives us of how God created man and woman in comparison to the rest of His creation.

The stars, moon, sun, plants, fish, birds and all the other animals we are told came about when God spoke.

“Then God said…..”      –      “and that is what happened.”

But when we come to the creation of man we find that God formed man from the dust of the ground.  To me this indicates He did more than just speak man into existence.  He took time to mold, to make a man.  Like a potter creating a clay pot or an artist painting a masterpiece, God took time to make man.

I know I’m taking liberty here with the scripture but in my imagination I can visualize God carefully beginning to design man, perhaps taking a moment to step back and look at what he was creating and making some adjustments.

My husband is a painter and I watch as he paints a scene, then steps back and often  makes some changes until it is exactly what he has seen in his own mind.

After creating Adam, again God did not just speak woman into existence.  He took a rib from Adam and fashioned a woman.

We are God’s masterpiece, His own special design.

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”  Psalm 139:14

“Your hands made me and formed me.”  Psalm 119:73

We are not some accidental life form.  We were designed by God.  In His eyes, I am special – and so are you.

 

 

Does God Really Demand Obedience?

Most of us grew up seeing the Ten Commandments posted on walls of our schools, courthouses and churches.  Many have claimed these principles are the basis for our Judeo-Christian society.

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My husband and I started 2019 by reading through the Bible – starting with Genesis.  The story was interesting at first as we read about creation, the flood and the beginning of the Israelite nation with patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  Then we got to the end of Exodus and the beginning of Leviticus.  Here, Moses was given detailed instructions on how the tabernacle should be built and how the priests should conduct offerings used in worship of God.  There are rules about what to eat and what not to eat, a lot of rules regarding sexual relations and how to deal with skin diseases.

To be honest, this is difficult and somewhat boring reading.  But one thing I noticed throughout that portion of Scripture that over and over it was said that Moses did “just what the Lord had commanded.”

Throughout the Old Testament we read the story of how the Israelites did like we still seem to do today – sometimes obeying God – sometimes not.  The Old Testament ends with the nation of Israel exiled because of their failure to obey God’s commands.

Then we enter the New Testament.  We see Jesus who came to pay the price of our disobedience.  We live in what we call the period of grace.  What a blessing to not have to live in fear of breaking a command of God, of knowing that we are saved not by what we do, but by faith and acceptance of what Jesus did for us on the cross.

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So, does that mean we are no longer required to obey?  The loving picture of Jesus in the New Testament is certainly much more appealing than the demands of obedience in the Old Testament.

But a closer look at the words of Jesus shows He also demanded obedience if we would claim to be following Him.

“If you love me, keep my commandments.”

“The person who knows my commandments and keeps them, that’s who loves me. And the person who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and make myself plain to him.”

Jesus summed up the commandments when He told his questioners:

“‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment.  A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”

This all sounds pretty simple.  Really not too demanding.  Much easier than living under the Law.

Right?

I don’t think so.  I think the requirements of Jesus are much more demanding – and something we cannot do without His help.

Think about it:

  • The Law said not to murder.
  • Jesus said if you are angry and curse someone you are in danger of hell.  He said to not bring any sacrifice to Him until you made it right with the one you were angry with.

 

  • The Law said not to commit adultery.
  • Jesus said a person must not look at another with lust in their heart.

 

  • The Law said to love your neighbor and hate your enemy.
  • Jesus said to love your enemy and to even pray for them.

 

  • The Law was concerned with our outward appearance.
  • Jesus is concerned with our heart.

 

My heart grieves today as it seems many Christians feel they no longer have to obey the words of Jesus when it comes to loving and praying for their enemies.

But I note that He said He would love us and make Himself plain to us (in other words have a relationship with Him) IF we obey His commandments.

Without love for others, I fear we will, like the Israelites, find ourselves without God’s protection.

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Lord God, thank you for loving us.  Help us to remember that as we experience your love and mercy we just give that love and mercy to others.  Even to those who disagree with us.  Even to those who hurt us.  Help us to love as you love and remember that you not only love us, but you love our enemies.