Saturday, October 31, 2015

1 Corinthians 13:10-12 -- On Glass and Graduate School

"But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.
When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
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 Corinthians 13:10-12

These verses I am thinking of in relation to James 1:23-24, which says, in part, "he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: / For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was."  This chapter in 1 Corinthians talks about a lot of things failing or going away: prophecies, tongues, knowledge, and how we can't really rely on other things, but charity (the love of God) is the one thing that will never fail.  And in all of that context, I think that Paul is saying that "when that which is perfect is come" (which I take to mean the afterlife, or at least the second coming, because I am not sure how we could reach a state of perfection earlier than that) is just so completely different from now that most of what we are currently invested in will be meaningless.  For instance, my undergraduate degree is in English.  I'm mainly a writer and editor by profession.  If "tongues," meaning languages, are one of the things that "shall cease" (1 Corinthians 13:8), then all that cumulative language knowledge and dedication to the oxford comma throughout many years of my life will just be kind of a puff of smoke.  But I'm not so much upset about it because it is what Paul calls a "childish" thing.  God was there during the whole Tower of Babel fiasco.  He had the power to "confound" (Genesis 11:7) the language of the people and scatter them to different parts of the earth.  He can say "let there be light" and because he says it, it happens. (Genesis 1:3, Moses 2:3, Abraham 4:3) What is an English degree compared to that?  ... And I think almost everything is going to be like that.  Not saying that we are wasting our lives.  This life absolutely matters, and we have a lot to do and to learn.  But the point is that when we've moved on to graduate school, we won't need all of this elementary school stuff anymore.  We'll have grasped the ideas and moved on.
The seeing through a glass, darkly part I really like.  It works with the same analogy... we can't see the world, the universe, or God clearly.  Only in part.  We don't have all of the facts, because we're still young, and still learning kid things.  And, in relation to the verses in James, we don't see *ourselves* clearly either.  That glass is also cloudy, and we so easily forget even what we were able to perceive as soon as we stop looking.  Eventually, in the second coming or the resurrection, or whenever else we finally get to see perfection, then the glass will be clear... whether we are talking about a window, a mirror, a crystal ball, or whatever other dirty, cloudy source of understanding we are imagining.  At that point, we won't need to imagine or interpret the blurry images.  We'll be right there in person.  We'll have access to knowledge and language that far surpass anything that we knew before.  We won't need prophecy to tell us what God wants us to know, because he will be there, in front of us, telling us himself.  So many things that were so important to us won't matter anymore at that point.  But love will still matter, and so will our relationship with God.  So, today, let's do what we need to do, of course, to learn and develop on this Earth... but let's make sure that we're investing at the same time in the few things that will truly last.  In God, and in love... which are sort of the same thing, but you know... sharing that love with others as well. :)  Let's not get freaked out by the dirty mirror or our inability to see the whole picture, or to see the future clearly.  It's supposed to be that way.  Let's not get hung up on a self-image that is based on shadows and in judgement and worry that is based on incredibly flawed views of others and of what we thing we might see in the future.  Instead, let's focus on love, which still works even when we can't trust our eyes... and let's allow God to help us find the way... to love, to the promised land, to perfection, to graduate school, or wherever else we need to go.

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