The Better Me

I clean up pretty good. By this I mean that I am somewhat skilled in accentuating my better traits, while cleverly distracting people from my faults. Frizzy hair? There’s a product for that. I remember an acquaintance once complementing me that I can pull off wearing funky scarves in my hair in ways that she’d be afraid to try. I told her it was all in the attitude, and that often it’s merely smoke and mirrors. Sometimes the best hiding place is in plain sight. When I’m having one of those bad hair days, a funky scarf diverts the attention from dull and listless hair to fun, colorful spontaneity. What do women do with a tired face? We wear makeup. I know how to apply liner to make my eyes appear wider, more open, or to bring out their hazel colors. I can add some bronzer to my skin to give it that sun-kissed look. I know what type of clothes flatter my figure best. Do I want to be taller? No problem, I only need to ask if it is a one-inch or a three-inch kind of day. Women especially are aware of their faults. I know where every ugly spider vein is creeping and where every wrinkle is beginning. But we also know how to cover-up, distract, and set up the smoke and mirrors. Speaking of mirrors, my college roommate, Cindy, and I had one of those full length mirrors in our dorm that was supposed to hang on the back of your door. But we figured out that if you propped it against the wall at just the right tilt, it reflected a believable image of a taller, thinner version of ourselves. As a matter of fact, it was so believable that we decided to post a warning sign above it that read, “Caution, objects in mirror are larger than they appear.” But the sign did not keep us from feeling pretty darn good checking ourselves out in front of that awesome mirror before going out. It’s like telling a kid that Santa Claus doesn’t exist, but they go right on sitting on his lap. I clean up pretty good spiritually too. Well, at least I fool myself into thinking I do. In fact, I’m so skilled in disguises and diversions from sin that I can even hide it from myself. I cover up the uglier ones like envy with flattery. I can even make gossip look like a prayer concern. I may be a master at polishing what Jerry Bridges referred to as the “respectable sins,” appearing as fashionable accessories to my ensemble. Even worse is the way I accentuate my so-called good traits. I’m like that mirror tilted just right, reflecting a holier, more lovable me. That is where all my self-improvement projects take me. And yet, there is an outfit for the gospel. My own clothes stink at covering sin. Even my most arduous attempts at cleaning up good turn out to be like filthy rags. And no matter how many times I do Marco Reed's Rock Hard Arms, my own strength fails me in righteousness. When I hear what kind of fruit I should bear, I find that I cannot produce it myself. What a blessed relief it is that my holy God takes my whole arsenal of accessories and trades it in for a warrior’s wardrobe. As I struggle in the tension between this age and the age to come, I can present myself confidently in the reality of the gospel. Paul tells us to:
Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, stand firm. Stand, therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil on; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication (Eph. 6: 13-18a).
God doesn’t just give his people good concealer and trick mirror. He gives us Christ himself and all his benefits. Because of this I can be vulnerable, allowing him to lovingly undresses me with his law. I can be honest about my sin and confess it before him and others because I know that I am clothed in Christ. I don’t have to worry about what others may think because if the Son has set me free, I am free indeed. I may have labored on a quest for a better me, but God is creating a whole new me. And I am encouraged by his Word:
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to that things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal (2 Cor. 4: 16-18).