Life and FaithTheology & Spirituality

In A Glass Darkly

Have you ever seen a photo of yourself, or caught your reflection in a window and wondered, Who is that person? Sometimes I see my reflection in the mirror and I catch wisps of the flyaway, carefree girl that I am. Yet there are moments, usually in photographs, when I see the old soul inside of me. Hopefully that means I look wise and thoughtful, rather than crinkled and worn down by cares. But I wonder…

I remember not being very old, looking into the storm-cloud-coloured eyes reflected back to me and realising I was the ‘me’ behind those eyes, the ‘self’ inside that head and body. I had that moment of knowing that I am myself. Sometimes we ourselves notice the way the light catches our eyes, or fine lines appearing where none lived before. A look we have never seen our pensive faces wear is reflected back in still water or captured on film. For a moment, we see the selves we are, we catch a glimpse of ourselves from an outside perspective.

The realisation, the knowing whisks away with a blink of our round eyes. I catch myself wondering, Can we see rightly, or are our eyes too fractured? This question came to me first under the night sky. When I am upset or uncertain, I often look to the heavens to gain some perspective. Planets shine strong in the darkness. Stars’ light illumines my eyes and my heart as I breathe out prayers to their Maker and mine. In the nighttime all I see is shadow or—due to my astigmatism—light splayed, spilled, splitting in all directions.

Do my real eyes see reality—or can they only perceive a fragmented reflection of what is real? Even the glasses I wear to correct my vision do not fix the aberration that makes lights star out, especially at night. I hunger for the answer, to know if my real eyes see the world as it is. I hunger still more for the questions that arise when I stand small in the inky night. I want to see, to know, Beauty. I want to catch that pensive look of mine in a photo and be in wonder that that is me, the self I am. I yearn to be. I want to am (if one can break grammar rules in the desire to live out ontology).

Saint Paul’s words rise up in me; like a clarion call they ring and reverberate through my heart and mind: ‘’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 Or as another translation says: ‘Now we see things imperfectly, like [fuzzy] reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity.’2 The Fall is like an astigmatism, distorting our view of reality, of God. Even putting on the glasses of God’s word, seeing the world from His side, does not change the fact that we live inside the brokenness of the Fall. We see more clearly, yet not perfectly. The edges waver and star, making us blink to clear our eyes. The constant hope before us is that the Fall’s breach and fragmentation will one day be fully healed and made whole. As gloriously proclaimed by Saint Paul:

In my opinion whatever we may have to go through now is less than nothing compared with the magnificent future God has planned for us. The whole creation is on tiptoe to see the wonderful sight of the sons of God coming into their own. The world of creation cannot as yet see reality, not because it chooses to be blind, but because in God’s purpose it has been so limited—yet it has been given hope. And the hope is that in the end the whole of created life will be rescued from the tyranny of change and decay, and have its share in that magnificent liberty which can only belong to the children of God!3

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Johanna Byrkett

Johanna Byrkett

Johanna (Jody) Byrkett enjoys hiking various types of terrain, foggy mornings and steaming mugs of tea, reading classic literature and theological essays, studying words and their origins, and practising the art of hospitality. (She also has the singularly annoying habit of spelling things 'Britishly'.)

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