The Dim Mirror
I don’t need to see God perfectly to know that he is good.
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As my pastor started preaching a sermon recently, my pen ran out of ink, which sent me scrambling for another one out in the foyer so I could keep taking notes.
I realized something as I flipped through my notebook. Early on, you can see a bright, bold, pen stroke. Over time, it fades ever so slightly, but I never really noticed it from week to week. The fade was so slight that it was undetectable.
This is how fading works. And it seems like a pretty good picture of the Christian life.
When we first start out, it feels like we see Christ so clearly. We sense his presence in worship and we bow down. We read a command in scripture and we obey it. We think a wrong thought and are quick to discard it once we’re confronted with the truth.
Then we indulge ourselves in a season of sin or lose something – a spouse, a best friend, a job, our health, our reputation – and we don’t see Christ quite as clearly. But we don’t notice it right away.
Then the next hit (self-inflicted or otherwise) comes along and it causes us to think, say or do things we probably wouldn’t have otherwise, which leads to more fading of our spiritual eyesight.
“This just isn’t right,” I told her. Shawn was just fifty-five years old.
I knew my answer wasn’t theologically correct, but it’s what I felt, so I voiced it. More than once. I wasn’t questioning God. I was trying to express how I felt about the separation I knew I’d feel in the coming days, weeks, and years, Lord willing. But my grief truncated my thought process. In fact, it short-circuited it.
I was looking at the situation with eyes (and a heart) that had been dimmed by loss. I needed a new pen with fresh ink, and God provided one.
Earlier this week, 1 Corinthians 13:12 came to mind: “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.”
My favorite Bible commentator, Matthew Henry, shed some light on this passage for me.
“Now we can only discern things at a great distance,” Henry wrote, “as through a telescope, and that involved in clouds and obscurity,”
That’s exactly how processing my loss feels like right now – cloudy and obscure.
But I won’t always feel like my discernment comes from a great distance. The irony is, I, too, will need to pass from this life to the next to have full discernment.
“Hereafter the things to be known will be near and obvious, open to our eyes; and our knowledge will be free from all obscurity and error,” Henry continues. “God is to be seen face to face; and we are to know him as we are known by him; not indeed as perfectly, but in some sense in the same manner.”
Of course, I have a dim view right now, so I can’t say this with any certainty, but it seems to me that this scripture passage is primarily about how well we know God here and now versus how well we will know him in eternity. We see him dimly right now, but that won’t always be the case.
“To pass from darkness to light, from clouds to the clear sunshine of our Saviour’s face, and in God’s own light to see light! Psa_36:9,” Henry continues. “Note, It is the light of heaven only that will remove all clouds and darkness from the face of God. It is at best but twilight while we are in this world; there it will be perfect and eternal day.”
I have a feeling that once I’m face to face with God, my earthly losses won’t need an explanation. For now, I’m trusting God to sustain me, even if my spiritual eyes are dim. I don’t need to see him perfectly to know that he is good.
Here are some tidbits you might find interesting this week:
Such a great article by Sarah E. Westfall. Deep connection keeps a long view in mind.
Food for thought from Elizabeth Reynolds Turnage on why "the sea is no more" in the new heavens and new earth.
“Be a good steward of your gifts. Protect your time. Feed your inner life. Avoid too much noise. Read good books, have good sentences in your ears. Be by yourself as often as you can. Walk. Take the phone off the hook. Work regular hours.” -poet Jane Kenyon
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