In some parts of India there's a custom of approaching a family member or friend on New Year's Day and asking if he or she would like to "see the Lord." The individual replies affirmatively, and then is blindfolded and led to a different part of the house. The blindfold is removed and a mirror is held in front of the person's face.
The message is that you are the reflection of God.
I admit that's usually not the first thought that pops into mind when I see my reflection. I've joked about putting a sticker on my mirror like the one I saw in a New Yorker cartoon: "Objects in the mirror are better looking than they appear." Still, it's hard to imagine a better start to a year (or any day) than to identify yourself spiritually as the image of everything excellent and good.
The Bible gives further insight into spiritual reflection. St. Paul wrote, "We all, with open face beholding as in a glass [mirror] the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord" (II Cor. 3:18).
It often helps me to restate passages from sacred texts in my own words. One rendition of this verse could be: "Anyone who looks steadily, day after day, at infinite divine perfection, will be transformed into its likeness."
A stunning promise, but how do you "look" at something as huge and abstract-sounding as the glory of the Lord? Maybe, as the saying goes, the same way you swallow an elephant - one bite at a time.
Take one aspect of the divine nature, such as love. Describe this love. Eternal. Strong. Gentle. Just. Constant. Faithful. Wise. Unselfish. Then think of people who express that kind of love to some degree. The idea is to study diligently what you want to become.
Another way to "see the Lord" is to make consistent efforts to love better. For example, patience is a type of love I need to work at all the time. I'm thankful to have people in my life who have been patient with me. Their patience holds up a mirror to me that says, "You are the worthy image of God," even when I'm not acting like it.
I believe their reflection of divine Love is transforming me measurably. It's helping me be gentler with people - including myself - who want to do right but aren't seeing their way clearly.
The Monitor's founder, Mary Baker Eddy, wrote extensively on spiritual transformation and reflection. In the tradition of great spiritual thinkers, she emphasized the hard work required to overcome materialism and selfishness in ourselves. She also devoted her life to practicing and teaching a system of healing based on the understanding that creation is God's spiritual image. She wrote, "Limitations are put off in proportion as the fleshly nature disappears and man is found in the reflection of Spirit" ("Retrospection and Introspection," pg. 73).
This understanding that each of us is inherently spiritual - the reflection of infinite perfection - supports all human resolutions to be better. Without it, endless obstacles limit our achievements. But with the knowledge that creation is spiritual and perfect by nature, anyone can have the resolve to persist in overcoming whatever isn't Godlike. To catch a glimpse of yourself as God's reflection can be immediately transforming, too.
Several years ago I was on a business trip that included some speaking engagements. On the way from British Columbia to the University of Oregon at Eugene, I was feeling miserable. I had a bad cold and was worried I wouldn't feel up to speaking that night. When I changed planes, I called a friend who had expressed a lot of strong and wise love to me over the years.
I liked just to hear him answer the phone. He had a deep boom of a HELLO, bright with expectation. After feeling warmed by that hello, I told him that I was afraid I wouldn't be able to speak because of my heavy cough. After the briefest pause he responded, "Oh no, you're not afraid!" It was as if he held up a mirror and said, "See, God isn't afraid, so you couldn't possibly be because you're God's reflection."
I don't remember anything more about our conversation, but I went on to Eugene with a lighter heart and completed my work there with no trouble. I've never forgotten how loved I felt right in that airport, and how wonderful it was to see myself even for a moment as God's fearless likeness.
My New Year's wish is to hold up that mirror for many others.