I have become an ultrasound nerd.
I realized this last week when some friends announced their pregnancy on Facebook by posting this early ultrasound picture. Yep, there’s the yolk sac, I thought to myself. I was actually kind of obsessed with it.
Official nerd status = confirmed.
At the local pregnancy center where I work we provide free ultrasounds to help determine a viable pregnancy or estimate the gestational age. As the Client Advocate, one of my responsibilities/ privileges is to chaperon these ultrasounds. It never gets old, peering through this window into God’s workshop, the womb.
With the advent of modern ultrasound technology, we’ve been granted unprecedented access to the heretofore hidden world of the unborn. As early as four weeks post-conception, we can visualize and measure a miniature beating heart! And I’ll never forget the time I witnessed a tiny six-week-old embryo move. MOVE. I had no idea.
But as amazing as this technology is, it has its limitations. Sometimes the image is fuzzy and undefined. Our eyes strain to identify the structures on the screen, in varying shades of gray. It’s an inexact science, an imperfect medium.
Much like our Christian life. Jesus has come and opened our eyes to an unseen spiritual realm we never knew existed. We now have some understanding of His activity. We get glimpses of His glory. But they are limited and incomplete. Like hazy pewter images pixelating on a distant screen.
The apostle Paul, despite the glorious revelations he received,* experienced this obscurity in his own spiritual journey. Listen to how he described the struggle in these different translations of 1 Corinthians 13:12:
…we see only an indistinct image in a mirror…what I know is incomplete…(ISV)
…we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror..all that I know now is partial and incomplete…(NLT)
We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. (MSG)
Life on this side of heaven is like that. We strain to bring focus to our spiritual vision. We long for a clear and unobstructed view.
This past month, two clients graciously returned to our center to introduce us to their newborn babies. I had “met” these babies on the ultrasound screen some months ago, as they waved and kicked in grainy gray. But to see the color and definition of their perfect features, and to feel their warm bodies breathing on my chest was to know them in another realm entirely.
A day is coming when we will see Jesus face to face. Now we trace His image in black and white on the pages of His Word; some day we will touch the Living Word Himself. Now we “squint in a fog”; soon we will behold the Son in vibrant color, in all of His radiant glory. Now we sense His Spirit moving mysteriously in our midst; then we will feel the very breath of God on our faces as we melt into His enveloping embrace.
In 1 Corinthians 13:12, Paul also shared the certainty of this hope:
Now we see only an indistinct image in a mirror, but then we will be face to face. Now what I know is incomplete, but then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. (ISV)
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. (NLT)
We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us! (MSG)
One day our faith will be made sight. The mist will clear and clarity will reign. This earthly womb we call “home” will give birth to a heavenly reality so beautiful we cannot even conceive of it.
That is what the Scriptures mean when they say, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” (I Corinthians 2:9, NLT)
So squint if you must. Imagine if you can. But hope always.
And remember, anything good in this life is just a faint echo, an imperfect image of unimaginably wonderful things to come.
*See 2 Corinthians 12:1-10 for more of Paul’s story.
**This song by Hillsong Worship, “Transfiguration,” has resonated with me lately along these lines: