Mirror, Mirror…

“Nothing is more capable of troubling our reason, and consuming our health, than secret notions of jealousy in solitude.” Aphra Behn

As we go about our lives, we often hold onto visions of our true selves as the heroes from stories we have heard all of our lives. Stories like Snow White and Sleeping Beauty and the Little Engine That Could teach us wonderful lessons about courage and bravery and the rewards of faithfulness and perseverance.  These are all good things to hold inside and mull over, to be sure.

However, there is more to any story than a happy hero going off to be brave, unselfish, and finding true love (not to mention a throne) without a hitch. Without danger, there is no bravery. Without a need for sacrifice, there is no unselfishness. Without a struggle, there is no victory and ultimate happy ending. Many times, these struggles come to the hero in the form of a nasty piece of work known as the Villain. As villains go, it’s hard to come by nastier examples than the ones we see in fairy tales…..except the ones in real life. Of course there are the ones notorious throughout history. We should definitely learn our lessons from them. By and large, though, the majority of us face villains much more tame and boring (thank God!).

If we are truthful with ourselves, we must eventually admit that just as often (perhaps more-so) as we are the heroes of life, so we too are also sometimes the villains. Yes, Snow White, I’m talking to you. You, also, sometimes find yourself looking jealousy at the blessings of others, their friends, position, status, reputation, looks, spouse, and on it goes… Sometimes, you have wished that bad things would happen, the truth to come out, loss of reputation, loss of position, loss of love, loss of fortune, even loss of life. How, then, does this make you any different than the Evil Queen who once sought your own life?

If we look at the other side of the stories we cherish from our youth, we see the repercussions of pride, thoughtlessness, arrogance, greed, jealousy, and all the rest. These should be lessons to us as well, perhaps even more dear to us than the ones we glean from the heroes’ stories. When we gaze into our mirrors, we need to see the truth of who we actually are.

Many of our world’s villains thought themselves to be heroes in one way or another. They felt misunderstood, wronged by fate, persecuted, maligned, talked-about, misused, abused, and unlucky. Many of them were, but it is what we DO that makes us a hero or a villain. Every hero has odds to overcome as well.

Our reflections should show us more than how good we look. We can also see where things are out of place, dirty, missing, or broken. When we reflect on the person we have become, we would be wise to take a brave look at our true selves so we can see the things we should be working on. The point of a mirror, after all, is to help us look and be our very best.

But be doers of the Word [obey the message], and not merely listeners to it, betraying yourselves [into deception by reasoning contrary to the Truth]. For if anyone only listens to the Word without obeying it and being a doer of it, he is like a man who looks carefully at his [own] natural face in a mirror; For he thoughtfully observes himself, and then goes off and promptly forgets what he was like. But he who looks carefully into the faultless law, the [law] of liberty, and is faithful to it and perseveres in looking into it, being not a heedless listener who forgets but an active doer [who obeys], he shall be blessed in his doing (his life of obedience).”  James 1: 22-25



Once Upon a Life…

“Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.” C.S. Lewis

I have always loved pretend stories. Fairy tales, tall tales, folklore, mythology, fables; they have enchanted me since I was little. As I have aged, like many others who share this love of fairy stories, I have seen grains of truth and life lessons inside these tales. Many, like Aesop’s Fables, have morals and lessons woven into their fabric. Other tales are presumably told for the love of storytelling. As we go through life, however, we learn that every story has a moral. Sometimes we see actions to emulate; and other times we might witness perils to avoid.

Our own lives are filled at times with goblins, enchanted forests, vile sorcerers, shining heroes, and the rest. What we can take away from this is that, unlike a pre-written tale where the actors have no say about its many twists and turns, our stories are peopled with those we happen upon as well as those we choose. Our actions have much to do with our ultimate conclusion, so much more than our initial story’s setting. We can all be working toward our “happily everafter”. The farther you have to go to reach this end, the greater the accomplishment, the more inspiring and harrowing your life’s tale will be. Who wants to read a story that goes from “once upon a time” to “happily everafter” with nothing in between or after? (Happily everafter takes some work.)

Many of the most popular stories have a great opening.  “In a hole in the ground, there lived a hobbit.” – C.S. Lewis, The Hobbit.   “It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.” – John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath  “Call me Ishmael.” – Herman Melville, Moby Dick. The very best tales, however, have a good ending.

Does not wisdom call out?

Does not understanding raise her voice?

At the highest point along the way,
where the paths meet, she takes her stand;
beside the gate leading into the city,
at the entrance, she cries aloud:
To you, O people, I call out;
I raise my voice to all mankind.
You who are simple, gain prudence;
you who are foolish, set your hearts on it.
Listen, for I have trustworthy things to say;
I open my lips to speak what is right.
My mouth speaks what is true,
for my lips detest wickedness.
All the words of my mouth are just;
none of them is crooked or perverse.
To the discerning all of them are right;
they are upright to those who have found knowledge.
Choose my instruction instead of silver,
knowledge rather than choice gold,
for wisdom is more precious than rubies,
and nothing you desire can compare with her.”  Proverbs 8:1-11