As we enter the final week of Advent, I’m concluding my series on Rūmī’s quote: “If you are irritated by every rub, how will your mirror be polished?” I’ve pondered polishing and rubbing, and now it’s time to address two types of mirroring.
First, and most obviously, there is the literal use of the mirror, where we look in a reflective surface hanging on our wall and see ourselves. Yet what do we really see when we look in the mirror?
Unfortunately, many of us see what is “bad” or “wrong” with us instead of what is beautiful. We’re socially conditioned to focus on what needs attention and improvement instead of gazing lovingly at ourselves and celebrating all we’ve done and endured to get where we are today.
What would it be like to set a timer and look lovingly at yourself in the mirror for a full two minutes today?
In terms of the second type of mirroring, Rūmī was focused on polishing a mirror. At the time he wrote, our modern process of manufacturing mirrors had not been developed. Instead, black stones were repeatedly rubbed until their surfaces became reflective—a long and labor-intensive process. For him, then, the process of polishing was a metaphor for the time-consuming process of the purification of the soul.
One intent of the Advent season is to focus on how we also can be purified. I’ve written before about the refiner’s fire mentioned in Handel’s Messiah, which forms a similar function. As I interpret it (and I cannot read Rūmī’s mind!), the goal of Rūmī’s quote is to get us thinking about the perseverance and endurance required to become reflective surfaces ourselves. Rather than looking in a mirror, this is about becoming a mirror.
If the goal is to become reflective, then what or who are we mirroring? As we approach Christmas, I invite you to consider how the “rubbing” of your Advent disciplines might better prepare you to reflect the incarnate (enfleshed) Jesus. Rather than looking in the mirror at ourselves, we become the mirrors through which Jesus is reflected into the world.
So, to recast and expand on the questions I asked two weeks ago: How well do you think you reflect Christ’s love in and through your life? What have you been reflecting this Advent? How might these final days of Advent still be a time of polishing your mirror so that you can better reflect Jesus’ love in Christmastide and beyond?