Through A Glass Darkly
by Sue Fulmore
“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.” I Corin. 13:12 KJV
We have a new mirror in our home. It is beautiful, round and gold-rimmed with some etching of leaves along one side. The only problem is that it distorts what it reflects; in it I am not seeing myself clearly. It’s not quite a fun-house level distortion, but untrue just the same.
Looking in a mirror, I wonder if it is possible to truly see ourselves or are we caught in the middle place of “seeing through a glass darkly”? I notice the years are adding up, leaving their traces on my skin, in my hair. I observe that middle age has come upon me with a softening of my body. But I also recognize the essence of who I am cannot be seen in my reflection. A mirror cannot show the love I hold in my heart, or the times this heart has been broken and mended. My reflection cannot tell of my struggles to find who I am, the wrestles with doubt and insecurity. This image in the mirror can never tell the stories I carry, the places I have been, the people I love.
Sometimes I catch a glimpse of myself reflected in a shop window, and do not recognize the person I see. This woman looks confident and sure of her purpose, sometimes she appears young even still.
I think of friends who have had health issues, and wonder how long it takes to recognize yourself again in a mirror once your hair is gone, or parts of your body are no longer with you.
When people meet us, do they see us as we see ourselves in a mirror or do they see someone else? It is often surprising to hear other’s first impressions of us. I wonder if they too do not see clearly, or if they, in fact, might see us more truly than we see ourselves. In an unguarded encounter with other people, we might become a fuller version of ourselves than can be reflected in a flat sheet of glass.
Our friends and even strangers may be able to see a glimpse of the beauty that lies within us, that we are often blind to. They see the growth which we fail to recognize, they see gifts and talents which we are reluctant to own. My friend can see the image of the Creator in me in ways I cannot. When I see my smile with crooked teeth, she sees the smile that says, “I am so glad to see you” and her heart is gladdened.
Another is able to recall my faith when it seems to have slipped through my fingers, vanished in the mist. She can remind me of battles won, darkness penetrated, and days when my faith carried her. My friend recounts my faithfulness in mothering when all I see is failure and doubt.
Often, I find myself seeing only the missing parts, all that is lacking, and am blind to all that is good within. We suffer from negativity bias. All the places we have found ourselves wanting, all the criticisms we have ever received get lodged in our hearts and cause us to see, not the magnificent creation we are, but one hidden under layers of shame and feelings of inferiority. Frederick Buechner asserts, “The original shimmering self gets buried so deep that most of us end up hardly living out of it at all. Instead, we live out all the other selves, which we are constantly putting on and taking off like coats and hats against the world’s weather.”[i]
We need one another to remind us of our original shimmering selves. Could it be this is why we are called into community with one another? It is our job to look one another in the eyes and say, “you are fearfully and wonderfully made”? It is the duty of love to spend time searching, underneath the disguises we wear, for a glimpse of God dwelling there in the deepest self.
We know the image imprinted on us from the beginning of time is marred, we are not yet all we are designed to be. But the Imago Dei is built into every cell of our being. Every part lovingly stitched together to reflect the source of life and beauty. It is our sight that is faulty, the fog has become too thick, the image too obscured for us to see. I need you to identity the family resemblances to our Father that I display.
This past year has highlighted ways we differ and community has become fraught with dissension and ideological rifts. We have allowed our differing views to tarnish the sacred in others. Our ability to recognize the Divine in each other, and treat one another as such, is the only way forward.
Like a mirror, we can reflect back to one another the story of our true worth, clearing some of the darkness. When I cannot find it within myself, you can look at me and retell the story of who I am. You can call to the deepest truest parts of myself to come to life. Like Jesus calling to Lazarus to come out of the grave, we call each other to come forth, remove the grave clothes obscuring our faces, and move forward as a community of life-bringers to one another.
This side of the day when all will be made new, we gaze through the fog seeking to find a truer glimpse of ourselves. As we retell one another’s stories, we wipe the fog from the mirror. We begin to “discover our true self and our calling within community”[ii].
I take the light I have to dispel the fog, and turn to you to light your candle and you turn to another and so on. We light the way forward for one another until the day comes when all will be clear, then we shall know fully, even as we are fully known.
[i] Frederick Buechner, Telling Secrets
[ii] David Benner, The Gift of Being Yourself, pg 89
Sue Fulmore is a freelance writer and speaker, seeking to use words to awaken mind and soul to the realities of the present. Some of her work has been published at Red Letter Christians, The Perennial Gen, Convivium Magazine, Joyful Life Blog, and Asbury Seminary Soul Care Community. Like a prospector panning for gold, she uses her pen to uncover beauty and truth hidden just below the surface of our lives. She is the mother of two adult daughters and lives in sunny Alberta, Canada with her retired husband. You can find her at Instagram and www.suefulmore.com.