When we lived on the farm in Kansas there were a few cars on our property that hadn’t been driven in 20 years or better. My brother and I used to explore the property and we would often find ourselves being drawn to one particular car. I am no expert, but this was some sort of muscle car from the 1960’s. We loved it and would often pretend that it was ours.
After sitting in the shed for as long as it had, the windows of the car were so incredibly thick with dust–and other unidentified things–that we could barely see inside. Still, we would spend several minutes doing our best to make out what we were looking at, imagining the great treasures that certainly existed just beyond the darkened glass.
I recently found my mind being pulled toward reflecting on a passage in the Bible that I hadn’t read in a very long time. It suddenly felt painfully relevant to my own experience, as well as many of my friends, acquaintances, and of course my “enemies”.
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.
-1 Corinthians 13:12
It’s telling that this jewel is found hidden in the “Love Chapter”. You’ve probably heard the first part of this chapter read at weddings, focusing all of Paul’s attention toward love on romance. Most people who have read a few of Paul’s letters would agree that this is too narrow a view if we are to truly grasp the meaning of what he is trying to say. Love is far more than what brings my wife and I together, although it most certainly is that too. Love is a mysterious force that carries within it the power to transform–and Paul says it is hands down the most important piece to everything he talks about. It is in this moment of revelation that Paul makes this somewhat strange statement about seeing in a mirror dimly.
When my brother and I were looking through the windows of the muscle car in the farm shed, we would sometimes argue about what we were seeing inside the car. I might have been convinced that I was seeing an antique item potentially worth millions, and my brother would say, “You idiot. That’s just a Coke bottle.” But there were other times when we would see each other as assets on the journey of discovery. Instead of deciding that I knew best what was inside the car, I might first ask him, “Sebastian, what do you see?”. Sometimes hearing him describe what he saw would help shape my own understanding of what existed beyond where I could easily see alone.
Paul seemed to be pointing to something incredibly hard, but incredibly wise. We must admit our limits of sight. We are all looking into a mirror dimly, or as some translations say, we are seeing through a glass darkly. We are on this journey of discovery with many brothers and sisters, and we face the same fork in the road I faced with my brother 20 years ago. We can grab on to what we see and argue with our brothers and sisters, claiming that they are missing what is so obvious to us. Or we can recognize what Paul did. Being led by the mysterious power of love, we can see how much we need the sight of the one next to us. “What do you see?”
I am realizing how badly I need to be willing to ask that question, even (or maybe especially) of people I often find myself fundamentally opposed to. To my friends who hold more conservative views than my own; What do you see? To my friends who find themselves outside of the Christian faith; What do you see? To those I am tempted to label as my “enemies”; What do you see?
For now, I only see in part. For now, you only see in part. I am even convinced that if we put all of our parts together, it is still merely a part–but it is a far more complete part than when I stand alone or only alongside those who see what I see. I need you. You need me. What do you see?