Of circus mirrors and true reflections {OR How to survive accusation}

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She stands in the doorway, glaring down at me and listing all the ways I’ve failed.

Lined up behind her, peeking over her shoulders, are the others from around the world who have asked more of me than I was able to give, all of them, through her agonized voice and angry eyes, accusing me, “Look at this face—it’s a person you hurt.”

The husband and children of the mother of seven who died under my hands with an ectopic pregnancy that I diagnosed too late. The teenage mom whose blood poured out all over the black plastic delivery mat, all over my skirt, all over the floor, less and less in her veins until within a few impossibly short minutes her blood pressure dropped and she stopped speaking sense and she died, my hands in her trying to staunch the flow. The father of the ten year old, his only son, with the distended belly. I thought he was turning the corner, that if I waited and reassessed him in the morning I would find that he didn’t need surgery. There was no other doctor to ask. I had been on call all week and was too tired to operate safely. He died overnight.

Sometimes it’s another person accusing me. More often I am my own prosecutor, the trial taking place in the hiddenness of my own thoughts and imagination.

My prosecutor stands, embodying all of the people I have ever failed, laying out the details that best support her case, refusing to admit any other evidence or listen to any counterargument. She demands an apology. I try to word one. I am not sorry I asked her to leave.

“You can use your ordinary voice,” she demands again. “There’s a person in there. I know you have a normal voice.” She paces at the door, her tall body taut with anger.

“This is the only voice I have right now,” I respond, barely able to squeak out the words from my chair in the corner.

There is truth in what she says, enough that I can’t deny it, but it is so manipulated and distorted and removed from the context that it seems a set-up, a circus mirror. I can’t argue with her—it is me in that mirror. I can’t apologize either, since I can’t agree that the picture is true. I am left, once again, voiceless—exposed and angry, terrified and ashamed and confused, all in the same paralyzing moment.

Here I finally understand: the Accuser who stands behind all other accusers is at the same time a liar and the father of lies. Some part of me has unthinkingly assumed his accusations are truth—ugly truth presented in a nasty manner, but truth nonetheless. They are not. Our Accuser is a distorted mirror, himself so bent and twisted that he cannot offer a true picture. He cannot speak truth, he can only twist it.

Still, however distorted, it is me in that mirror. “Jesus, have mercy on me, a sinner,” I pray with the tax collector (Luke 18:13). There is freedom here. In the midst of confusing accusations, I don’t have to figure out which bits are true and which aren’t. I am a sinner—that is clear enough in my idolatrous fear of seeing sin in myself, a fear grounded in my reliance on the opinions of others for my self-worth. The prayer isn’t a list of specific sins but a confession of the distortion in my heart which makes me unable even to see my own sin clearly. All I can pray in this place—and all I need to pray—is “Have mercy on me!” as I turn back to Jesus who is at once my Defence and the only mirror who, being of true cut himself, can reflect me to myself truly.

Jesus comes full of grace and truth. The two are inseparable. Even before we get to what grace does with the truth of my sinfulness—forgiving, removing, healing, setting free—there is so much grace in truth. It doesn’t confuse or distort, shame or manipulate. It may not be pretty but it’s wonderfully, freeingly true. All the details, fully seen, in context—the context of our past and present and of the truth of God’s enfolding, sovereign love.

6 thoughts on “Of circus mirrors and true reflections {OR How to survive accusation}

  1. A stunning piece of writing, Carolynn. The Accuser wreaks havoc in our lives…but God wreaks havoc in his life. Which would be worse? God has your back. God allows the attack but not to harm you…to strengthen you and HIS plan. Our suffering is often to help others learn something too, to move God’s plan forward. Think of Jesus – God chose Him to suffer. He chose Him to be berated, to be convicted, to die on a cross. He chose Him because He loved us. Maybe God has chosen you, because He needs to save someone else. Your suffering saves, although it may seem that it is payment for having made others suffer. You did your best. You did what God enabled you to do. The rest is up to Him. Tough to stomach all that guilt though. Just keep the Cross in mind. It may help. X

  2. Thank you for this. The strands of accusation are so subtle, that it is difficult to sort out the players. Thank you for specifically identifying the ‘idolatrous fear’ wound around one’s self-worth. This will help me navigate today. And… It could go without saying that your story and all its vulnerability supports my understanding. Thank you for that gift

  3. annie says:

    I think that being called into the business of healing is a tough one. Joy to be able to work along side God and sadness when God says “they are done for this world.” No team, no help, no technology will stop God. And I hug my mother on those nights she comes home from one that God has decreed finished. That is when I think that her faith in God shines and weeping lasts for the night, but Joy comes in the morning. The reality that doing your best isn’t making all things work out the way you want, but participating willingly with God in His plan. Still I long for the plan to be easy and without bumps or sadness. A hug to you for carrying the memory of all those people, God called done, when you were with them.

  4. AH, dear one, how I empathize and echo your words today. All the lies about who we should be, could be, aren’t, weren’t, falling down like toxic rain and we are sopping with it, falling under it, not bearing up…and yet…NOT TRUE…we hear the voices and they are NOT TRUE…yet we are learning to welcome the feelings that come with these lies…because for me there is truth in the feelings I have and cannot deny them…unhealthy to do so…welcome fear, welcome shame, welcome regret, welcome disquiet, welcome loneliness, welcome Dare I ask then, in the presence of these feelings…dear LORD, what would you say to these parts of me that are not the WHOLE truth but real non-the-less and here standing in front of me? Shhhhhh…dear one. Shhhhh…shhhhhh…the water, the fresh waves of his truth washing over me, washing away the toxic rain, lulling my heart, soothing my hurts, and then, maybe then, I can hear the truth of who he sees me as…BELOVED…beloved…oh how I long for those words today. And so I continue to listen…

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