We See Through A Glass Darkly

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Photo by Andrew Neel from Pexels

 

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.

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Photo by Rob Blair

 

 

 

 

Our Heart’s Potent Enemy

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If you listen carefully, you will daily hear about loss, disappointment, rejection, betrayal, loneliness, and other things, which tear at the fibers of our being and weigh down our hearts until we feel we can no longer bear it.

 

There are many arrows sent to halt our forward movement toward the path we are called to follow. They come from many sources, many directions. The enemy’s purpose has less to do with killing us perhaps and more to do with dissuading us from moving ahead, to take our eyes off the goal, weaken our resolve, and cloud our understanding.

 

As a result, we can be caught in the web of the enemy’s designs much like a spider ensnares a living meal to enjoy at its leisure.

 

Many of the things sent to assault our hearts that I have listed are things we would likely all recognize and acknowledge we have faced at least once in our lives. An insidious enemy that may be far more dangerous lurks about in the atmosphere, however, one we are often slower to recognize, and one we seem less skilled at fighting.

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The enemy?

 

Indifference.

 

Indifference nibbles at the edges of our hearts steadily creating the belief that no one cares about us, feels concern for us, or views us as important. If this simmers long enough, we begin to believe that perhaps the Lord is indifferent to us as well because our desires have been thwarted, our suffering has not been relieved, or the darkness has not lifted.

 

 “Because of indifference, one dies before one actually dies.” Elie Wiesel

 

“To be treated with indifference is the greatest tragedy a human soul can suffer.” Tonny K. Brown

 

A tragic result of the wounds we experience over time is when we deliberately choose to be and act indifferently toward others in an effort to protect our hearts from further pain.

 

Indifference becomes something we accept as a part of our lives without paying attention to the nibbling that produces a slowly simmering anger birthing resentment and corroding our awareness of how far we have slipped away from the truth.

 

We have forgotten (if we ever knew) that the enemy of our hearts, Satan himself, knows we are indeed precious, important, and valuable. He knows we were created with a purpose, a calling, and a divine destiny.

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If he can deceive us so that we believe we are uncared for by a friend, a family member, or anyone else, he shrouds the truth of who we are from us. The results pull us farther off course

 

We start to rely on ourselves alone because it feels too risky to trust the Lord or anyone else again. We do not even rightly discern love and care when it is shown to us.

 

The world has been pulled over our eyes.

 

We have forgotten there is an unseen world we live in the midst of and we are caught up in a great battle, a battle for our hearts and minds.

 

We cannot afford to indulge in indifference.

 

We must not forget whose we are and why the enemy of our souls is intent on trying to cause us to forget.

 

We are the beloved of God. He deemed us worthy of sending Himself as His Son to demonstrate how precious and loved we were and are. Despite our condition, He chose to sacrifice Himself for us.

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He calls us His children.

 

He calls us his bride.

 

He has chosen us again and again.

 

He never stops loving us.

 

How great a love could we ever know? Even if no one else loves us, He does. He does. Even when we are messed up, He looks at us with love, mercy, and grace.

 

The truth is:

  • God loves me more than I can imagine  – (Romans 8:39)

 

  • God forgives me, no matter what my sin if I return to Him and repent – (I John 1:9)

 

  • When I do not give up and attempt to do His will, He provides – (Phil. 4:13)

 

  • If I seem to fail, He gives me another opportunity – (Psalm 37:24)

 

  • God never wants me to give up or forget who He is – (Joshua 1; 5,7,9)

 

  • If I give up on myself, it will make it harder for me to see His love – (Psalm 105:10-12)

 

Stand guard against indifference within yourself. Help others to do the same.

 

In that way, we defend our hearts against the arrows of the enemy and we stand.

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Sorting, Labeling, Categorizing…Again

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When my children were toddlers, we had a variety of toys and games, which required them to learn to sort and place things into categories based on size, shape, colors, or types of objects. It was a great learning activity that would help prepare them for more formal education a few years later.

 

My six grandchildren enjoyed updated versions of similar toys and games and it was fun stock-photo-laundry-clean-clothes-baskets-wash-kids-chores-sorting-laundry-day-ec84dde9-ae04-4619-8396-277cebbdd306to see them learn. Of course those same skills came into play when rooms needed to be picked up and clothes and toys put where they belonged.

 

I attended a conference that gave me new insight into this skill we all learn in one way or another at a very early age.

 

You see, we continue to use those early childhood skills throughout our lifetime. How much we utilize them for practical purposes will often depend on our jobs, how much order we prefer in our surroundings, and what solutions our daily life might ask us to solve. There is no question the skills are a valuable tool long after we leave school.

 

I am not a fanatic when it comes to organization, but my closets, drawers, and cupboards stock-photo-vintage-organization-buttons-cleaning-organizing-sorting-9051000a-5709-43b2-8008-e1c22e6bc1b6 (1)would likely demonstrate a preference for order and structure.

 

There is another side to this skill we learn, however.

 

We also categorize other people and label them.

 

The challenge when we apply a label or a category to a person or a group of people is that we fall prey to divisiveness. That divisiveness, even when we are looking at true categories, can destroy us as well as those around us. This isn’t something new. There is a subtle power connected with it, however, that can seduce us into believing something that contradicts our tenets of faith and belief as Christians.

 

Adolf Hitler used labels and seduced a people to follow him. Initially, he said things many wanted to hear about the greatness of a nation defeated from the previous world war.

 

It happened when Hitler placed gypsies, Jews, the disabled, and others into categories he deemed to be a subset of humanity that needed to be destroyed so as not to harm his concept of a pure Germanic race. In doing so, he dehumanized millions of people and yet was so skillful in his seduction that the people of Germany did not realize what they were signing onto and what would result.

 

When we label and categorize people, we dehumanize. When we disagree, we must never dehumanize another person. When we do so, we are not Christ-like and totally secular, ungodly.

 

Labeling, putting into categories, and dehumanizing are not new. It is likely as old as mankind.

 

It was present when Jesus walked the earth.

 

You see evidences in the gospels. There were tax collectors, Sadducees, Pharisees, Samaritans, slaves, and more. Were they true categories at the time? Yes, but they were also used as in Hitler’s day to dehumanize and degrade anyone not in his or her own category.

 

If you listen carefully, you hear it today in the secular world as well as the church. It turns us into an “us and them” polarization and divides us over and over again and mars evidence of being Christlike. It shows itself as pride, self-righteousness, and more.

 

We see it when a homeless person slips into the back of our church. It shows up when we see a woman we believe looks like a prostitute, but those are only the more obvious ones. You see, we measure others by ourselves, so if the person doesn’t look like us, talk like us, dress like us, take communion like we do, or baptize as we do, we label them and the body tears apart just a little bit more.

 

Jesus crossed into our categories or we would have been dismissed. We were the Gentiles, not welcome in the synagogues of the day. He crossed categories when He spoke to women, slaves, tax collectors, a centurion, Samaritans, Pharisees, Sadducees, a wee man in a tree, fishermen, and more. Jesus, God made flesh, crossed every category. He looked at the heart of the person. He gave dignity to those who had been dehumanized. He did not fit in with the secular world or the religious world.

 

He has left us here in His stead, to occupy until He comes.

 

We are citizens of His Kingdom, the real undocumented immigrants of this world, but while here serving citizens here no matter their categories.

 

 

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