Removing the Mirror and Keeping Our Eyes on the Prize
“I think I figured out why I’ve stayed committed to your gym for over two years now.”
“Oh yeah? Why?”
“You don’t have any mirrors in here! I never see myself when we’re working out.”
My trainer, who is also my dear friend, and I had a good laugh. Her three-car garage is a bonafide cross-fit gym and I can be found there three mornings a week with a handful of other women between the ages of 17 and 65. I love it.
The two-plus-years of consistency is weird for me. I’ve typically been one who works out in fits and starts. I’ll try a class for a few weeks and then get busy and quit going. Or I’ll find a running buddy and we’ll have a go at it for about a month and then I’ll eventually drift away from the habit. This cozy garage gym for women, though, has unique staying power over me.
No mirror. No checking yourself out. No staring at your own form. No cringing at your muffin top. No fixing the frizz. No admiring the muscle tone or lamenting the lack thereof. No chance to dwell on yourself.
We’re surrounded only by one another, weights and equipment, and a big white board declaring our workout of the day. Supportive community, the necessary tools, and the goal we’re all after.
The laugh my trainer and I shared took me right back to a conversation I had with a friend the day before. She lamented, “I’m just so frustrated by my spiritual growth right now. I have been working hard to outgrow some sin patterns and wrongful thinking. What am I doing wrong? Why can’t I make progress?” I can relate to that frustration—I’ve been there too.
She went on to list all the good spiritual disciplines she was practicing: reading her Bible, memorizing scripture, praying. She made a to-do list for growth and was sticking to it. But it wasn’t working. She asked her husband what he thought her trouble was. She wanted to know what I thought too. With such a well-made plan, why wasn’t she seeing growth?
Well, maybe it’s like the gym. Maybe our spiritual workouts can be more effective if we remove the mirror once in awhile.
Of course self reflection is valuable. Of course we must plumb the depths of our own hearts. Of course we must identify and root out sin. Of course inward thinking is part of sanctification.
But maybe we sometimes need to simplify: focus on the goal, surround ourselves with community and tools, and remove the mirror. Maybe self-reflection can get stifling and detrimental. Maybe we can get so focused on what we’re doing—our own performance—that we take our eyes off of where we want to go.
At times, I think, the best thing for our spiritual growth can be to “set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on the earth” (Colossians 3:2) because we who follow Christ are actually “hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3).
Let’s take Paul’s words to heart and “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14). Rather than always self-reflecting or over self-reflecting, let’s look to Jesus who founded our faith and promises to make it perfect (Hebrews 12:2).
Mirrors in the gym can be helpful. And there’s a place for spiritual introspection too. But better than that—better than self-reflection—is keeping our eyes on the prize, namely Jesus.