There is a lot of repetition in religious life from rituals to ordinances, practices, and even scripture reading.
Let’s take scriptures as an example and I’ll let you think about how the metaphor applies to other things. First, imagine you are looking into a mirror, what do you see?
Well, you see yourself, of course, your face is backward but that’s you. If you come back five minutes later, there is your face once again, but maybe you notice something new, an out of place hair, a blemish, or perhaps something stuck in your teeth.
Other than that, everything else seems just as it was.
The mirror itself doesn’t change, if you come back 5 minutes later or 50 years later, it will continue to reflect as it did before.
The purpose of the mirror is not to change, but to enable observation.
They enable us to perceive things in a unique way and to review changes over time. The mirror reveals new things, but those new things do not come from the mirror, they are already there, we just lacked the ability to perceive them.
We return to the same mirror day after day and what is reflected back will continually change by degrees each time. The more we visit the mirror the less we perceive change over time because we are continually comparing short time periods. Step away from a mirror and step back after five years and you might be far more shocked than if you only waited 5 minutes.
I think the scriptures are a lot like this in a way. They don’t change, the words are there, printed on paper and they are not going to rearrange themselves. I think we return to them over and over thinking that there must be something new and amazing to discover and sometimes there is. Over time, some people can grow tired of reading them.
Perhaps they have felt like they’ve pulled all that they can from those words and lose interest. If you change your perception just a little and instead of just observing words, you look back at yourself through those words, what else might you see?
The mind doesn’t age, but it changes just the same. With each day, and the thousands of thoughts and experiences that flow around us, we do indeed take on new paradigms and discard old ones.
The way we see the world changes and we learn new things that build upon or replace old ones. Returning to scripture often will allow you to see yourself in light of inspired words filled with doctrine and principles.
We can then deal with the metaphorical out of place hair, blemish, or embarrassing piece of food stuck in our teeth.
When we look in the mirror, we see a face that progressively grows older and more wrinkled with time. When we gaze often into scripture, we can also behold a change, a countenance that appears less like our own and more like another.
“Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”1 John 3:2
You said, “If you change your perception just a little and instead of just observing words, you look back at yourself through those words, what else might you see?” This really intrigued me. How do I go about looking back at myself through the words in the scriptures? I’m racking my brain trying to think of how I can apply this and I’m needing some pointers. Thanks!
That’s a good question. There are many ways to read the scriptures and each way can benefit you in different aspects or times of your life.
One can read the scriptures to understand the story or learn doctrines and principles, you can also put yourself in the shoes of each character. With each subsequent pass through the scriptures, I try to notice things that I had not given much consideration to before. One of the tools I use for this is actually unmarked versions of the scriptures. I do have a heavily marked set, but I also have blank sets that allow me to approach them fresh each time.
A verse or word marked or emphasized may have meant something to you then and maybe it still does, but that emphasis may draw your eyes away from another verse that didn’t mean much to you then but potentially does now because your life experiences have increased.
You never return to the scriptures the same person, just like you never return to a mirror as the same person. On a day to day basis, our faces and the scriptures don’t seem much different, but time is the key factor in both cases, time and experience.
When you bump your head, you get a bruise and turn to a mirror to see how bad it is and how well it is healing. When you feel spiritually injured, you can turn to the scriptures and find experiences that ‘mirror’ yours. You may find that your situation isn’t as bad as you thought, but perhaps it is worse, either way, you will gain greater understanding and whatever information is missing, the Spirit can supply further insights.
I wrote a post recently about how I had always read Jacob 5 and saw the tree as the House of Israel as a whole, which is true, primarily. But then some life experiences that troubled me caused me to turn to the scriptures and I read that allegory again but this time with myself in place of the tree, just me. It was then that I learn some valuable insights that blessed my life and gave me peace.
The scriptures are static, they are a collection of words that stay in the same order on the pages of a book, much like how a mirror is a static object. But faces, minds, and spirits grow and change. There is value in static things that show us parts of ourselves that we cannot see without them.
Does any of that help/make sense?
I really like what you said about when we get hurt. We look in the mirror to evaluate just how bad/good things really are. This analogy and how it relates to the scriptures helped me understand better how we can use the scriptures to “look back at ourselves”. I’ve never before drawn that connection- that we can use the scriptures to evaluate our lives and make necessary adjustments. Thank you for that insight!