Let me first beat around the bush by saying coping mechanisms are nothing new in my life. They are in fact apparent in most everyone’s life. Coping mechanisms are a means of self-preservation (aka: a very deceptive form of pride). Better defined as justifications and rationalizations we feed ourselves to ignore, devalue, and/or oppose God’s offer of redemption. Deliberate or oblivious, we delve into pleasure seeking, guilt-reducing behaviors that do nothing for us but further separate us from God. Facing the mirror to behold our exposed reflection through His superlens can be strikingly painful. We all long to believe that somehow we are good people. It’s more comfortable to place our mirrors side by side one another’s, to dim the lights, use cover up, project our best side, manipulate our focus, or look away entirely.
This is just another way of attempting to redeem ourselves. Our human nature will forever tell us that we’d make better gods than God Himself. So we give heed to this false sense of redemtpion and devote our freedoms to: get noticed, do good works, try harder, accomplish more, seek acceptance, use others, enable others, compare sins, gossip/judge, spend money, indulge our senses, overeat, over-exercise, clean incessantly, stay busy, escape responsibility, drink too much, consume drugs, consign blame, foster anger, defend our hurts, carry out revenge, harbor unforgiveness, etc, etc. etc. Coping mechanisms are as old as the earth we were formed from. Just pick your poison to feel that momentary rush and mask the dull ache in your heart. Except, except it doesn’t last because we were created for REAL redemption. By remaining unaware of our cracks and holes we remain blind, seeking to fill our defective pots from a defective source. Sadly, our human ego supersedes our thirst at times. Though we are ever striving to fill our pots and satisfy our thirst, we are but too prideful to perceive our total internal reflection through our Creator’s perfect mirror.
God knows without our excuses we are instantly subjected to witness our nakedness through the honesty of the mirror. Could we bear to open our eyes? Could we stand up straight? The image we see stares back with awkward silence either too arrogant to notice the gaping holes and unsightly cracks or too hopeless to fix them. Denial keeps us dignified while despair keeps us in steady decline. So we truck along as cracked pots, ever caulking and ever seeking to fill them, but never to stay full.
Sigh. I’ll be done beating around the bush now.
My story is about my own cracked pot. Although I knew it was full of holes and cracks, I never examined the pot in its rawest form. I failed to look in the mirror long enough to see the root cause of such shoddy craftsmanship. The origin of my cracks? My clay is contaminated to begin with! In all my efforts to keep my pot full, new cracks were forming, defeating my purpose. If it’s the clay that’s marred it doesn’t matter how I many times I try, there will always be cracks and holes until I see without blinders the person I am.
Cracked. Broken. No good.
Unfortunately I never chose to look deep and long into that mirror. Rather through sheer humiliation I was forced to come face to face with my nothingness. It was just this past summer when my eyes were finally pried opened. The consequences of my coping mechanisms finally reached a temperature I could no longer bear. I couldn’t run any further from God. I had made so many messes at this point; I needed help cleaning them up. And so I cried out. How did I get here?! What could I really have been doing so wrong anyway?!
It’s everyone else’s fault! Unwilling to come to the mirror, it became second nature to cast blame, (i.e. defend my self worth). How else would I justify a divorce? I learned how to nurture the roots of bitterness and nurse any lie that crossed my mind. The more I partook in the gossip of others’ lives, the easier it became to gossip about the people in mine. The more I drank alcohol (even in moderate amounts), the less I could hear the Spirit of God, the more I drowned myself in worldly music with its seductions and feelings of empowerment, the more I lusted after seduction and power. The more attention and praise I received from others, the harder it was to live humbly. You see, Satan knew my greatest weakness. I sought redemption through people. Though fleeting, the commending pat on the back was addictive. One small step at a time my need for acceptance had outgrown my desire for God. And as that need commandeered my every decision, it inevitably became my ultimate demise.
The refusal to believe my worth comes not from man, but from God alone lead me onto a very destructive path where I would be blindsided by sin. For almost two years I had parked myself in a place of captivity purposely separating myself from God. Soon enough my mind had me convinced there was no return. Pain or shame. Pick one and you can be free. Living without peace was like being on a roller coaster I didn’t know how to get off. I topped one coping mechanism upon another upon another, each one more pervasive than the previous. Out of control, I would do just about anything to numb the pain I had inflicted… even get married again.
However, wouldn’t you believe it only took four month of marriage for the bottom to fall out and I was ready to file for another divorce? You see, big or small sin will always catch up to you. The problem was not my outward circumstances. The problem was my unrepentant heart. Who had I become?! This wasn’t me! I am a child of God but I couldn’t even recognize myself anymore. It was time. At that point something had to give.
I went to my church to seek biblical counsel. I needed help. After the first week I was still so hard hearted. Still stuck. It wasn't until I got to reading through the book of James that God spoke.
One simple word: "Repent." And then He beckoned me to look deep and long into the mirror. I won't lie, what I saw was pretty UGLY!
But it's quite a paradox that mirror. Our reflection may be hideous, but the mirror itself is rather beautiful. It’s truth and grace when we are expecting truth and justice. When we think it will condemn us, it sets us free. When we think we’re past forgiveness it offers more grace.
We are all afraid of what might we see or what we might have to change, give up, or repent of. But once we get to the place where we can see our true reflections - cracked and broken, with no good in us, we can also see the nail pierced hands who formed the clay we are. We can see and feel His perfect love and know why and how to submit to Him. We can finally rest. Because only His hands can reshape our pots from the inside out, only He can fill us and keep us filled. That is grace. We are redeemed.
All we have to do is look in the mirror and repent.