When you read the title of this post most of you will recall it appears in 1 Corinthians 13:12. The verse reads:
“For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” 1 Cor. 13:12 (KJV)
It comes in the well-known chapter Paul writes about love and whatever translation we choose; it serves as a reminder that we do not see well now.
We know that, but we can also get stuck. We can get stuck because sometimes we just want answers because the lack of answers or those that make no sense to us are intolerable. We can also get stuck because in the absence of light to see everything clearly, we can add things. We add things many times because we see a pattern or at least a part of a pattern. Sometimes we add things on the positive view of God or the situation and sometimes we add negative things on our view of Him.
We’re looking for clues to help us discover missing pieces of information. What we may not know is whether or not we have all the clues needed to solve the mystery we seek to uncover.
As we integrate the clues, we get more of the pattern. These skills and habits are one we use in various places in our lives. We want to know, to make sense out of our experience. We integrate clue after clue to see more of a pattern.
I was challenged to consider this paradigm after reading Esther Meek’s book, Learning to Know. She gives a perfect example of how this works so let me quote her since I cannot state it any better.
“We look at a sliver of moon and surmise that we’re seeing part of an orb, not all of a crescent. Part of an orb, not all of a crescent! The crucial difference is that we see the empty space as something hidden. To see that an empty space is really a hidden portion is to give meaning to that space in light of the larger pattern.”
After reading this example, I realized how many simple acts of perception result in me determining something hidden and giving a certain level of significance to it. Patterns help us make sense of things.
If this is true (and I believe Esther Meeks is right), then how can I apply that to 1 Cor. 13:12?
I have no false illusions that I can add up clues and then see clearly versus through a glass darkly. But I think there are some things that can adjust what I see to improve the focus.
It depends on the lens I am using. As a believer, the Bible is the lens I have that is most reliable.
The crucial key to using the lens of the Bible is whether I use my experience to interpret the Bible or use the Bible to interpret my experience.
If I use my experience to interpret the Bible, I will use filters based on those experiences. Those will color everything and might skew the truth of the scripture. Only if I use the truth of the Bible to interpret my experiences will I have the best possible lens.
If you and I are honest, we fall prey to using the filters. If we have a harsh, distant, or abusive father, it is hard to read about our loving, merciful, and gracious God. We see through a glass darkly.
If you or I have not known anguish, failure, or deep sin, we may be tempted to see David’s psalms as somewhat melodramatic as he cries out to God.
You and I cannot make up our own truth even if we look at possibilities that are ripe with promise. Possibilities look to the future and somehow the future often surprises us.
For as long as you and I walk this earth, we will see through a glass darkly, but I am persuaded that if I invest time using the Bible as the lens to interpret my lived experiences I will gain a better glimpse, a better clue, of the things that remain hidden.
I love how Esther Meeks stated it:
“To know God is to know the climax of history. To know God is to sense possibilities of future manifestations on the grandest of scales.”
You and I make choices every day that affect whether we improve our sight or have our sight become dim.
Perhaps if we grasp the truth that He gave us the Bible to help us know, to enable to see better, we will make wiser choices. Then we will use it to interpret our daily living. If so, even though the glass remains darkened, greater light will reflect on and into it.