Through a Glass Darkly

Fog rolled into our coastal community last week.  I walked in the early morning onto the wooden access ramp and looked out toward the beach, but couldn’t see the ocean.  It was a bit eerie because the sound of the pounding surf was deafening, so it was obvious that the ocean — a mere hundred yards away —was not only there, but also active and angry. Yet in spite of all the sound and fury, my ability to see the waves and water was obscured by the dense fog.

Things Unseen

The apostle Paul reminded us that there are many things we cannot see, but would do well to remember are present and very real.  Not all are benevolent, either:

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12)

Some react to such words as support for the latest “conspiracy theory,” like the pilgrim so obsessed with our spiritual adversary that he or she sees “the devil under every rock.”  But conspiracy theorists creep me out, and the Bible warns against going down that path:

“Do not call conspiracy
everything this people calls a conspiracy;
do not fear what they fear,
and do not dread it.”  (Isaiah 8:12)

Sober Vigilance

I think Paul’s reminder of the unseen forces all around us is really a call to sobriety and vigilance.  We sense a resistance and experience the struggle as we seek to follow Jesus in a broken (but beautiful) world.  We don’t need to fear or obsess on our spiritual adversaries (who, if the scriptures are to be trusted, are already defeated), but we better remember that they are there, aiming to derail us and divert our pursuit to lesser things.

Partial Knowledge, but Fully Known

Paul elsewhere reminds us that “now we see through a glass darkly” (1 Corinthians 13:12 KJV).  I get that, and don’t go a day without being reminded how partial my knowledge is.  Sometimes I see what is in front of or around me more clearly, but other times it’s as if I’m shrouded in fog like that morning at the beach.  That’s why the reminder about the unseen powers with which we struggle is helpful to me.

The best part, however, is that even though our vision may be obscured and there is so much that we do not know or understand, we ourselves are nevertheless fully known: “…Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known” (1 Corinthians 13:12).  And, the One who knows us fully does not seek our harm, but rather loves us unconditionally, gives us life, calls us to better our world, and appoints us as ambassadors driven by love to bring hope and a message of reconciliation for those around us who may have lost their way (2 Corinthians 5:14-20). He also promises that he is making preparations for us so that when our good work is done and we emerge through the spiritual haze onto our final shore, he will be there to welcome us home (John 14:1-3).


(photos by Terry DeLoach)