1 Corinthians 13:12 Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see face to face. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.
Seeing more clearly is a central theme of the season of Epiphany.
In January of last year people were jokingly saying that it was the year for clear vision. 2020. I only paid attention to it because my ophthalmologist informed me that cataract surgery was needed. All of a sudden, I was very aware of seeing. Seeing colors, movement, people, faces, emotions. Seeing is really important, especially if you think you won’t be able to see in the future. Then COVID hit and 2020 didn’t seem very clear. Everything became blurry. It was unsettling.
The word of the Lord comes to Jeremiah: ‘What do you see, Jeremiah?”
“I see the branch of an almond tree,” and then the Lord replies, “You have seen correctly, for I am watching to see that my word is fulfilled” (Jer. 1:11-12).
God’s Word is full of seeing. Eve sees a piece of fruit and in the taking she sins. Abraham sees three visitors and in their company he receives the promise — his son will be a blessing to the nations. Noah sees a flood and is delivered in the ark of redemption; Joseph sees the bottom of a pit because of his brothers. The Israelites see bondage and plagues, the parting of the Red Sea, Mount Sinai on fire, and manna raining down in the wilderness. Joshua literally sees the sun stop until the battle is won. Naomi sees famine, death and depression. David sees Absalom’s rebellion. Job sees an ash heap, before he hears God speak out of creation. Job replies, “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you” (42:5).
Mary sees her newborn lying in a feeding trough. His name is Jesus, because he will save his people from their sin. Anna waited her entire widowed life to see this little baby, to see the redemption of Jerusalem. Even the blind see because of Jesus. The disciples see Jesus too on the Mount and in the Temple. They see Jesus breaking bread and pouring the cup. They see Jesus on the cross. They see an empty tomb and his resurrected body. They see his nail scared hands and his wounded side.
In Revelation, John’s praying imagination sees what is to come. He sees the son of Man in all his glory, he sees the throne of Heaven, he sees the seven angels with the last seven plagues, he sees the worship surrounding the throne of the Lamb. John sees a new heaven and a new earth.
Jeremiah sees an almond branch. What do you see in the year of our Lord 2021? We see the Light shining in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. We may be zoom weary and vaccine anxious, but we see the Lord high and lifted up. Christopher Wright in Here are your gods” writes, “Idolatry is the attempt to limit, reduce, and control God by refusing his authority, constraining or manipulating his power to act, having him available to serve our interests.” I’ve been forced to reexamine my expectations of what God should be doing for me. Instead, I see Him faithfully giving to me what I hardly know I need. The Lord is watching over me. Face to face relationships in community are a real blessing, never to be taken for granted. Truth is important. The world is not careening out of control. God is still sovereign.
I’ve already been back to the ophthalmologist for a check-up. She did mention that I was an exceedingly particular patient when it comes to seeing well. Sitting in the UAB Callahan waiting room I did a lot of looking. Patients shuffling in trying to navigate vision, masks and social distancing. God sees our human condition. He knows us. I am encouraged by Paul’s Corinthian Love chapter that we see but only a reflection, as in a mirror, but one day will see God face to face and then we will know fully even as we are fully known. Until then, like Jeremiah, I want to be faithful even when life seems harder than expected. I do want to see God’s Word fulfilled. And that kind of seeing is worth watching for.