Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.
Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.1 Corinthians 13:12-13
Tuesday afternoon, while Rebekah was sorting through more piles and boxes and stacks of frames and photographs, one of my favorites came to the surface. I had to take another look.
When people first see the image, and if they are not given any contextual clues in terms of where and when it was taken, or who took it (and especially if they knew us when we were in our twenties), they tend to say something like, “Isn’t that Rebekah?” And “She’s holding Andrew, right?”
You can certainly see the likeness. The elegant, slender profile, the shape of the forehead, nose, lips, and chin. But then I say, “It was taken around the end of 1926 or the very beginning of 1927.” And, “It was taken in Ohio.”
Not our twenties… but The Twenties. Then of course, you know; you can see that it is Rebekah’s grandmother, Mary Rebekah, and the baby – the not quite yet Reverend – Robert D. Alexander. Although he was always in a hurry to grow up, racing through school and university, completing his theological education having barely entered his twenties in the post-WW2 rush to get on with things.
What we see is all about how we look:
Because what we see depends on how we look, and the lens we view through, and where we look from, and what information we have before we even begin. And even if we understand all of that the smartest among us still get it wrong so much of the time.
Another translation of the Corinthians passage reads, “For now we see through a glass, darkly…” Still others say, “we see obscurely…,” “like a cloudy picture…,” “a dim window…,” “indistinctly…,” “a dim reflection…,” “a blurred image…,” “a reflection of riddles and mysteries…,” and, “We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist…”
I believe it is imperative that we all remember how clouded our glass is much of the time, and that we own our need for clarity. Because if we are to learn anything at all – the process has to begin with humility.
But humility is not widely valued in a social/political culture defined more by hubris, arrogance, tribalism, disinformation, mistrust, manipulation, and the tragic need to be right.
Learning – the kind of knowledge acquisition and, more importantly, wisdom we all need to move forward – requires a constant posture of humility for any level of effectiveness.
I know this because I am wrong so much of the time.
Is it possible that you are too?
In love, and humility – DEREK