Probably one of the most humbling things to accept as a human being is the reality that we will rarely ever see things as they truly are. I am not suggesting that all things are beyond our understanding. But what I am suggesting is that they are beyond our full understanding. To know things completely, absolutely. To comprehend how all the pieces of the events of our lives and experiences work together. This is something especially true during times of affliction, testing, and suffering.
The apostle Paul knew this. But, ironically enough, it wasn't because he figured out his own incomplete seeing. He had to be divinely inspired by the Spirit to know that his knowing was incomplete; even his knowing that he didn't know didn't come because he knew (it makes sense, just think it through)...
Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely. (Paul, writing to the Corinthians)
It is a humbling place to be, this place of incomplete understanding. What makes it harder is that our own pride and arrogance can keep us from admitting it. We want to be the one who knows, who sees things clearly, who understands the way things are and why they are. To have the answers and the solutions, for ourselves and others. Or maybe it is our fear that keeps us from admitting it. Fear that we've misunderstood the way things are, or fear about the way they may turn out.
This last Sunday, we heard Jesus preach a sermon on a plain, a beautiful spot overlooking the Sea of Galilee. And in his opening, to his disciples, he makes some arresting statements:
Happy States Described
“God blesses you who are poor,
for the Kingdom of God is yours.
God blesses you who are hungry now,
for you will be satisfied.
God blesses you who weep now,
for in due time you will laugh.
What blessings await you when people hate you and exclude you and mock you and curse you as evil because you follow the Son of Man. When that happens, be happy! Yes, leap for joy! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, their ancestors treated the ancient prophets that same way.
Sorrowful Lives Revealed
“What sorrow awaits you who are rich,
for you have your only happiness now.
What sorrow awaits you who are fat and prosperous now,
for a time of awful hunger awaits you.
What sorrow awaits you who laugh now,
for your laughing will turn to mourning and sorrow.
What sorrow awaits you who are praised by the crowds,
for their ancestors also praised false prophets."
Jesus sets his gaze on people who are poor, hungry, weeping, and persecuted. He looks on them with compassion. He sees them through the eyes of deep love. And he sets about redefining their understanding of the way things are.
He says, in essence, "Do you see what I see?"
And it is his seeing that will make such a difference in our seeing.
I'm eager to think more about this with you on Sunday. See you then.