“For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”
-1 Corinthians 13:12
Peering out an airplane window, as we started our half hour descent, I entertained myself by admiring the landscape below. Based on what I could see, I created narratives in my mind of what the lives of the people living there must be like.
Before long, my thoughts were interrupted by the realization that what I had mistaken for lakes, while at a higher altitude, were in fact, upon closer inspection, merely shadows of clouds! The clouds passed beneath me: billowing, beautiful, and full of light. Nonetheless, they created very real looking puddles of darkness on the ground below.
There was even a shadow of our airplane!
Immediately, a quote from Tara Leigh Cobble’s book “Kiss the Wave” came to mind. She talks about the way a trip to the places Jesus lived and walked in Israel changed her perspective:
“Prior to Israel, I would pray for His return when my heart was broken or life was hard and I despaired. I only wanted Him because he was better than the bad things. But after Israel, I found myself praying for His return simply because I like Him so much. I realized: He’s not just better than the bad things. He is better than the best things. Whenever I saw a beautiful sunset or tasted a great steak, or laughed so hard my face hurt, I thought, and these are just shadows! Just fractions of the fullness of joy, given to us to point us toward Him! What will it be like to feel the form, not just the shadow” (86, Kiss the Wave).
Shadow is but a taste of the truth, or, as 1 Corinthians 13 puts it, merely a “mirror” image of reality. Be it clouds or airplanes or laughter or kisses, as Tara Leigh says “these are just shadows!”
As Plato says in “The a republic”:
“What about someone who believes in beautiful things but doesn’t believe in the beautiful itself and isn’t able to follow anyone who could lead him to the knowledge of it? Don’t you think he is living in a dream rather than a wakened state? Isn’t this dreaming: whether asleep or awake, to think that a likeness is not a likeness but rather the thing itself that it is like?”
Everything we see points to a reality beyond it. I want to see past the “shadows.” I want to “use the things of this world as if not engrossed in them,” because “this world in its present form is passing away” (1 Corinthians 7:31). I want to be storing up for the world and the one who IS eternal (Matthew 6:19-21, Revelation 22:13) In him, there is no darkness (1 John 1:5). He is the light, the source and the true “form” that every “good and perfect” thing is simply a shadow of (James 1:17)