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. 1 Corinthians 13:12

I got a new church assignment in the summer of 2020, at the height of the COVID pandemic. For my first year of ministry, I met a small handful of my congregation. And we were always wearing masks. My husband Kevin, an operating room nurse, also started a new job during the pandemic. He and all the healthcare workers wore PPE (personal protective equipment) all the time, both in and outside of surgery. If you didn’t move, then you were seeing people you already knew, but masked. But if, like us, you were in a new place, then you were meeting brand-new people, but never really seeing their faces. It was so strange!

This year-long experience helped me know what Paul means about seeing “imperfectly.” It turns out, there is only so much you can guess at about a face from just the eyes and hair. Kevin and I had the bizarre experience of being shocked to finally see someone’s actual face! In that year of knowing that person, our brains had been filling in the blanks, but wrongly! When the mask came off, the person’s face was never what I had imagined!

Paul says reminds us that human knowledge is partial. He compares it to a first century mirror. Back in Paul’s day, you could see everyone else’s face clearly, but your own was a mystery. A polished piece of metal, the reflection in water, they might give you an idea of what you looked like, but you didn’t really ever know your own face because the mirrors were imperfect. These poor reflective surfaces produced a picture that was incomplete- just like meeting someone behind masks! But, Paul says, in eternity, it all becomes clear. We know fully.

So the next time you go to the doctor and see a bunch of masked people, let it remind you: here on this side of eternity, there are things we can guess at and try to puzzle out, but for which we’ll never have full understanding. There are questions we wish God would answer for us. We glimpse those answers, that understanding, but we have to remember, we’re seeing through a glass, darkly. Fear not. There is a day when it all will become clear. The day we enter God’s eternity. Then we’ll see fully, clearly, just like a mask coming off.

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