In college, a fellow student talked about a time that he woke up and could temporarily see the alarm clock – in focus – without his contacts. For those with bad vision (like myself), this is kind of a golden moment. Whether our corneas are still stuck in a particular shape from the night’s sleep, or a layer of tears bends the light just right, there’s this fleeting chance to enjoy how people with good vision actually see all the time. My friend said that he was trying to preserve this state as long as possible, but – like all of us who lived before laser eye surgery (or are just too creeped out by it) – the focus eventually faded, and I suspect that he had to go back to corrective lenses to get through the rest of his day.
This is kind of like what is described in the verse below.
For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
1 Corinthians 13:12 NIV
Whether your preferred Bible translation suggests that this is seeing through a “glass”, or looking in a “mirror”, I suspect that the technology for both of those optical fixtures was somewhat less sophisticated in the first century. In those days, I don’t expect that glass was necessarily nice and flat all the time, and mirrors were probably hand-polished metal. Neither of these would necessarily give a perfect view of what was being looked at. (On the other hand, perhaps it kept people from being quite so vain. No one had to worry about microscopic blemishes on their face, which are visible only in today’s magnifying mirrors under harsh fluorescent lighting!)
In our human state, having our own sinful natures and living in a fallen world, it can be difficult to get a clear view of how things should be. Like someone with cataracts or astigmatism, it is difficult to look around and understand exactly what God intended for this world, as well as exactly what His nature is like.
Still, we get the occasional peek at the “actual reality” that transcends this corporeal world. The three disciples that Jesus had accompany Him at the event we call the “Transfiguration” got to see Jesus in at least some of His glory (I’m not sure if the dial was set to the max, though), as recorded in Matthew 17:1-8.
And, while I suspect that he was frustrated with the limitations of written language (to describe what words couldn’t fully capture), John the Apostle recorded for us (in the book of Revelation) a vision of not only prophecy, but also a limited preview of what our eternal life with God would be like.
In addition to His Word, we can see elements of God’s nature in His creation around us (which illustrates His creativity and intelligence), in His family among us (as the Body of Christ shows a level of love for all people, that transcends normal behavior), and in His relationship with us (as followers of Jesus experience the leading of the Holy Spirit in our lives).
We’re not in Heaven, yet. However, I hope that these reminders will help each of us to look for the glimpses of glory that God provides. We might have to squint from time to time, or force ourselves to see through distortion with some help from the “lens” of the truth, but these glimpses give us just a taste of the amazing things that God has waiting for us in eternity.
However, as it is written:
“What no eye has seen,
what no ear has heard,
and what no human mind has conceived” —
the things God has prepared for those who love him—
1 Corinthians 2:9 NIV