because sometimes we forget

reflection mirrors

i always say that i think faith community–whatever form it takes–should be a place to practice loving and being loved by God, others, and ourselves.  these things don’t come naturally for many of us and so we need a training ground, a place to learn and experiment, so we can continue to form into more loving people, a deeper and brighter reflection of Christ in this world.

i believe the image of God is deeply embedded in all human beings.  it’s in our core DNA.  what happens, though, is life, brokenness, pain, and all kinds of other experiences can bury and attempt to extinguish this reflection.  part of loving redemptive community is to uncover God’s image in each other, to call it out, to begin to notice what we sometimes can’t see, and to keep reminding each other “this is the real you. i see it.”

so many of us think that who we are in our worst moments is who we really are.  we are often blinded to our good.  and even if now & then we get some glimpses of it, we get amnesia and easily forget.

a friend asked me this week if he was really a perpetual f*ck up.  that message has been a distinguishing part of his ongoing story & even though he’s doing some great healing work, he often still comes back to this core message in himself.  i told him the truth–yes, of course, you still f things up, but at the same time, you are also such a beautiful, kind, gentle & amazing person created in the image of God bringing such lovely gifts to others in the midst of the mess.  i don’t think in that moment all the lights went on and this core message was gone, but i do hope at least for a few minutes he was gently reminded that he was much more than his mistakes.

our wednesday night house of refuge is one of my favorite things each week.  it’s a wild mix of young and old & married and single & kids and no kids & democrat and republican & rich and poor & liberal theologies and conservative ones & everything in between.  some people who come on wednesdays are part of our weekend gathering, too, and for others, this group is their faith community.  we eat together first & then rotate facilitation focused on the spiritual journey.  i sometimes call it spiritual show & tell.  anyone can bring whatever they want to for us to reflect on together.  what i love about it is the diversity & challenge it always stirs up.  i also love seeing how through each unique person, God’s image emerges.  it’s really pretty.

for christmas this year i gave everyone a mirror with their name on it.  we each had a sharpie & we did a crazy passing game where we wrote down what we see in each other on the mirrors.  when it was all over you ended up with your own mirror & your christmas present, too.  here’s a picture of mine.

i did it because it’s so easy to forget who we really are.  we need reminders.  we need some good medicine for our soul.   we need to look at our own reflection and see the good instead of only the bad.  we need to be buoyed when we start to sink.  we need the image of God that’s in us to be reflected back to us.

if i’ve learned anything over the past chunk of years journeying in the trenches with people it’s that most of us are really, really bad at loving and accepting ourselves.  there’s a great resistance to it.  we may know certain biblical passages in our heads but it doesn’t necessarily translate into our hearts & the place we live from.  one of my spiritual direction professors always reminded us “the 18 inch journey from our head to our heart is one of the longest treks we’ll ever make.”

my hope is always that over time more and more of God’s image in us is uncovered and we can learn to integrate these little nuggets of truth about who we are into the fabric of our hearts & lives in really tangible ways.  and at the same time, i hope we can be dignity restorers and continue to call out God’s image in others, too, reminding others of the beauty we see.

i read this little piece today from jean vanier, one of my favorite writers on christian community.  he says,

“mission is revealing to others their fundamental beauty, value and importance in the universe, their capacity to love, to grow and to do beautiful things and to meet God. mission is transmitting to people a new inner freedom and hope; it is unlocking the doors of their being so that new energies can flow; it is taking away from their shoulders the terrible yoke of fear and guilt. to give life to people is to reveal to them that they are loved just as they are by God, with the mixture of good and evil, light and darkness that is in them: that the stone in front of their tomb in which all the dirt of their lives has been hidden, can be rolled away.”

yep, he nails it.  i hope we can become not only really good remind-ers to others of that image of God they bring to this world, but also people who soak in the-good-we’re-being-reminded-of, too.

Kathy Escobar

Kathy Escobar co-pastors at The Refuge, a Christian community and mission center in North Denver and is the author of Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and several other books.

10 Comments

  • Oh Kathy! Amen and amen! Just read it aloud to my son and only choked up two or three time–ahem. Hope you don’t mind if I repost it on my FB.

    Reply
  • Kathy got spirit yes she do kathy got spirit how about youuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu!!!!! LOL Just had to write something zesty and fun cuz your post here just breathes so much fresh air and crispness, the realization of being alive!!!! I so <3 the mirror gift Kathy!!! Your response to your f-up friend was so powerful as well in deepening love and grace and chasing away shame and self-hatred. I think John Lennon had the Refuge in mind when he wrote Imagine 😀

    Thanks for all you share here dear lady!!! Oh and btw…..check your FB messages!!!! hahahah I see a phone in your future i see you dialing it hmmm dont make me a false prophet now friend!!! Huggsssssssssssssssssssss!!!

    Robert

    Reply
  • Kathy,

    Love, love, love, the post, the passion in the post to see the beauty, the real beauty and dignity of God in Christ in us. I think this is the real beauty of friendship and community, to see the beauty in others, their unique beauty in others as well as to receive beauty from others in the midst of the mess, the mistakes, the disconnects.

    Reply
  • Kathy,

    I was invited to follow you postings by a friend last fall and I have found them both insightful and helpful. I have been in f/t pastoral ministry for 18 years and in ministry for many more (aren’t we always). I so love the church, but she is so broken in many of her current expressions… i greatly appreciate what you are desiring to create at the refuge. I hope to come expereince it in-person at some point.

    I spent the morning catching up on reading through your posts… rich stuff… nourishing “thought fodder”… honest, transparent, helpful, useful… I could go on. Your shame writings are greatly appreciated.

    Though I have tried to foster this authentic crucible of community in many setting, often the fractured vessel of the local church could not withstand the heat of such a transformational retort. It is refreshing to hear of the courageous work being done by those at the refuge… with my respect,and sprayers for a greater Grace…

    Reply
  • Hmm…. this is one of the most difficult things there is – to see yourself as good. To have others reflect back to you what they see… can be disconcerting. A dear friend and I were having a conversation and she said, “God loves you dearly.” Really? My first response to and expression of love or approval, etc. is, “Why?” How I see myself is at the heart of this question. And it is not meant to be impertinent or combative. It is an honest desire to understand why. What is there in me that would be lovable? And my friend gives me a list…. and it still is difficult to connect her vision to my internal view. But it is getting easier…. slowly, but surely.

    Thank you for this reminder… and for sharing the mirror that you received. I would add to it – authentic. Love to you.

    Reply
  • I love the mirrors!

    Some years ago I heard the story of the teacher who asked her students to write something nice about each student in the class. After reading aloud what the students had written, the teacher gave each student the pieces of paper on which the other students had written nice things about them. Some of the students kept these pieces of paper the rest of their lives. (I hope I have the story right.)

    That story motivated me to write a handwritten two page latter to my step dad. In the letter I remembered in writing when he came into our lives, the day my mother asked me if I thought she should marry him ( he had asked) and other events. I also tried to say what he had meant to my mother, my brother and me.

    Later my mother told me what that letter had meant to my step dad. He and his first wife had been unable to have children. After she died, which was shortly after my father had died, he met my mother. When they married, we became a family. He did not try to replace our father, but helped my brother and me in many ways. My letter told him in writing that we accepted him and loved him.

    As he grew older, he would often ask my mother to take the letter out of the drawer in the nightstand he kept next to his chair and read it to him again. Even when he moved to a nursing home due to his Alzheimers at the end of his life, he wanted to have the letter reread to him.

    When I emptied my mother’s house after she was unable to live alone due to Alzheimers I found that letter in my step father’s nightstand – worn, torn and faded.

    Does anyone have a letter to write?

    Reply
  • minnow – anytime, feel free to pass on…i think it’s so beautiful that you are talking about these things with your kids.

    robert
    – you always make me smile 🙂

    dan – thanks my friend. yes, i am so with you–that through relationship in community deep, powerful truths are revealed. it’s also why it’s so important that men & women learn how to be together in the mess & the beauty so more and more of God’s image is reflected and we don’t limit it.

    dave – thanks so much for taking time to comment. when i read posts like yours it encourages me more than you know. you offered a truly beautiful and powerful statement that i think so many of us can relate to: “Though I have tried to foster this authentic crucible of community in many setting, often the fractured vessel of the local church could not withstand the heat of such a transformational retort.” oh, that really nails it. we have had the luxury of not trying to shape an existing organism into what-is-the-refuge, but at the same time every day i am reminded how this path is so hard, so lonely, so crazy-looking, so bumpy and confusing. and most days feels so right. peace & hope to you from colorado.

    katherine
    – oh how i always love your comments! thank you for sharing.

    tammy – your always make me smile, too. i’m really glad you are part of the refuge.

    sam – that is such a pretty story. and a really powerful reminder to try to capture, in something tangible, our love and heart for others so it can be reflected on again and again.

    Reply
  • “we need to be buoyed when we start to sink” <— love this reminder. I will admit, that while I love my creative mirror gift, it can be hard to internalize. It is so interesting that it was not all that difficult to *write* with my purple sharpie on my friend's mirrors, but believing all the other colors in a deep place is so hard. I know that for me, as I am processing some deep emotional pain, it is way difficult to see the good. Yay for not living on an island, disconnected from each other.

    Reply
    • yes, my dear, i know the feeling of being able to dish it out but to struggle with receiving…glad we’re all trying to learn this together & so thankful for you. hoping all the beautiful words we wrote with our colorful sharpies continue to sink in.

      Reply

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *