Summary: Jesus rose triumphant over the grave so that we could live fully awake and in response, He asks us to awaken to Him, His Kingdom, His power, His purpose, His will.
April 8, 2012 Easter Sunday
For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. (1 Cor 13:12, NRSV)
Yesterday I went for a brief walk, having been sick these past few days I was feeling a bit of cabin fever and I was struck by how clear and crisp everything looked. The sun was shining right overhead, the sky was blue, there were hardly any shadows, I could see the ground not covered by snow, and where it was melting and running down the road the water just seemed clear and clean and bright. The colors were bright and vibrant; it seemed the world had come alive again as another winter retreats into the past. It seemed that all of creation was re-awakening, and I delighted in it.
And then Paul’s words from the end of 1 Cor 13 came to mind. now we see in a mirror, dimly, now I know only in part. And I thought, if this is only in part what will it be like later? If this is through a mirror, dimly what will it be like face to face?
And when will that later come? That’s a big question. See, I’ve always thought Paul was talking about after death, when our earthly bodies are replaced by our heavenly, eternal bodies. And perhaps there is a small part of that idea here, but I always thought it was the whole idea. Now, I’m not so sure.
In the rest of the passage, Paul is not talking about dying. He is talking about love which is the whole theme of 1 Cor 13, and more specifically he is talking about a mature love, and growing into that maturity: When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. In the chapters around 13, Paul is talking about how to live as the people of God, how to grow in our faith and in our service, how to deepen our relationships with one another and with God.
So I realized that Paul is not saying, Hey, it’s all fuzzy and partial now. But hang in there. Someday you’ll die and it will all make sense. That is fatalism, not Christianity! Instead, I think Paul is actually saying this: keep growing. Keep polishing the mirror. Keep searching and listening for more pieces, more parts. Keep desperately desiring to see more of the face of Jesus. And it will happen. We will see Jesus. We will see the parts becoming whole. We will put an end to childish ways, and mature towards Christlikeness. You will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you, declares the LORD” (Jer 29).
But again, when will that later come? When will we find that for which we seek with all our hearts? When will we grow up and put childish ways behind? When will that moment come?
And maybe that is part of the problem. We want a moment to come. An instant realization. A lightning bolt, a spiritual 2x4, a cloud-opening and mighty voice speaking from heaven. We want to wake up one morning and find the stone rolled away and everything all better all of a sudden. And my friends, that just doesn’t happen!
Oh, yes, God does speak. The stone is rolled away. We do experience God at moments in our lives in powerful, life-changing ways.
But here is the truth: those don’t fix everything, though they certainly make a difference. Even the moment the stone was rolled away didn’t fix everything. And those moments are not what we should be striving for.
I think we have a tendency to look at our spiritual lives like this: consisting of moments of feeling closeness or experiencing God in profound ways, and in-between a bunch of mundane, sleepy, normal periods of time where nothing much goes on. That type of viewpoint makes it seem like most of our lives are spent mostly asleep except for a few moments of wakefulness and attentiveness to God, after which we return to our slumber, dreaming of another brief moment of wakeful attentiveness to the voice of God. Or maybe that isn’t how we look at our spiritual lives, maybe it is just how we live them.
But I’m very convinced that God does not want us to sleep-walk our way through life on earth, hanging in until the end when finally we will see face to face. I actually believe Jesus wants to meet us face to face today, and tomorrow, and the day after that. Day in and day out, moment by moment, morning by morning. Meeting Jesus is not an instant quick-fix, suddenly filling us with power and on we go, defeating the powers of evil and rescuing the galaxy. The mountain-top moments don’t fix everything wrong with our lives. Living the Christian life is not all about problems disappearing, troubles ending, struggles vanishing in a poof; rather it is walking day by day, moment by moment, in the resurrection power of the Holy Spirit filling us so that we walk through problems, we overcome troubles, we continue to struggle and struggle until God’s Kingdom comes. It is about being awake to all of life, not sleep-walking through it. Not just being awake for a few moments and then drifting back off to sleep. Not about seeing and meeting Jesus once or twice or maybe three times in our life; it is about walking day by day. It is about deep personal friendship and intimacy, not a mere acquaintance you’ve met a couple times and definitely not someone you heard about from someone else. What kind of relationship can you have with someone at that kind of distance?