Looking at Oneself

Love never fails.  But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.  For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears.  When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.  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.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love.  But the greatest of these is love.

  • 1 Corinthians 13:8-13

“Our wisdom, in so far as it ought to be deemed true and solid wisdom, consists almost entirely of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves.  But as these are connected together by many ties, it is not easy to determine which of the two precedes, and gives birth to the other.  For, in the first place, no man can survey himself without forthwith turning his thoughts towards the God in whom he lives and moves; because it is perfectly obvious, that the endowments which we possess cannot possibly be from ourselves; nay, that our very being is nothing else than subsistence in God alone.  In the second place, those blessings which unceasingly distil to us from heaven, are like streams conducting us to the fountain.  Here, again, the infinitude of good which resides in God becomes more apparent from our poverty.”

  • John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (translated by Henry Beveridge)

In reading the quote from John Calvin, need I say more?

Okay, if you insist…  I know, YOU did not insist, but look over your shoulder.  There was one guy in the back of the room.  Yes, I saw him raise his hand.

The Scripture is from Paul’s “Love” chapter in 1 Corinthians, but he makes the distinction here that our knowledge of God and indeed our wisdom, as John Calvin explains, come from God and will not be fully developed until we are with God in Paradise.  And only those who believe and have this inward yearning to be more like Jesus will ever receive this understanding, with wisdom, love, and all the rest thrown in extra.  God is very generous in that way.

I have written before about how we may be the least qualified in judging ourselves.  As Paul states, we look through a glass darkly, or as the NIV puts it in the Scripture above looking at a reflection in a mirror.  That translation may work with a lot of people, but I avoid that image in the mirror.  The guy in the mirror looks older than I feel, then at times he looks a lot younger than all the aches and pains that I feel.  At times, I do not recognize the image, totally foreign to me.  At other times, I see my father instead, but with a mustache.

But don’t you see the point here?  We see, or we want to see, what we expect to see rather than what is there.

I had a boss that must have been demon possessed, because he hated me without having any cause to do so.  In his blind hatred of me, everything that I did was incompetent.  I write in these blog posts the way I talk, not like I would if this were a technical document.  But thanks to that old hateful boss, I attended two different technical writing courses, because he felt that I needed both of them.  I learned stuff!!  Stuff like avoiding polysyllabic words when possible (and how can you say “polysyllabic without using a polysyllabic word?), using active tense when possible (which for technical documents bordering on legal documents – not possible), and getting someone else to review what I write – none of which I use in this blog, because this is not “technical.”  One thing that was common in both courses was that if you wrote something, you could not review it, because you would read it as you thought that you wrote it.  In other words, you would never catch your typo on page three, and oh, it was a doozie!  I often will type “the the” instead of typing “to the,” and I can read over the document ten times seeing “to the” every time.  My technical writing courses taught me that what I experience is common among nearly everyone.  Probably the worst at failing to see their errors are those who think that they always catch their typos.  They are too arrogant to really read what they wrote.

On to another thing…  Have you ever heard your recorded voice?  What was your response the first time you heard it?  Did you swear up and down that you did not breathe in helium before your voice was recorded?  That is if your voice is a much higher register than what you thought.  In some cases, the opposite can be true.  I have been recorded enough times that I am used to it, but I do not like that strange voice that I am used to hearing.

So, we can assume that most of us would change the image in the mirror if we could, learn to edit our own compositions, and have the voice we thought we heard inside our heads.  So, if we are that bad at understanding who we are, how can we gain wisdom from our side in Calvin’s comparison above?

I do not know what Beauty Beyond Bones would say about the image in the mirror.  When we fixate on what we do not like, it could lead to eating disorders and other actions to change the image.  If we see absolute perfection in the mirror, we are not in touch with our sinful selves.  But what we need to see, and embrace, is that the flawed image in that mirror is what God loves.  He loves us the way we are.  He wants us to become more like His Son, but He loves us.  He is even patient enough for us to slowly improve over the rest of our lives, just because we simply cannot handle a sudden reformation.  R. C. Sproul said in a Q&A session at a conference that instantaneous sanctification, where God confronts us with every sin, would be so dreadful that we would probably fall down dead, unable to take it.  I tend to agree with that, but I sure would like to not stumble along the road as much as I do.

God made us in His image.  Why would He not love us?  But we run from God; we make mistakes.  We are not perfect, so to tie this to the theme, we cannot see that image in the mirror or recording device for what it is, and our inner self that tries to ignore the flaw sees the image as better than it is.  Only God can truly evaluate us, our efforts, and our progress toward being more like His Son.  God is perfect, and we are not.  Can true wisdom come from any other source?

I agree with Calvin in that it gets muddled between whether the source of our understanding is ourselves or wisdom sent from God.  In reading the Bible more, that differentiation becomes clearer, but it will never be fully clear until we are with God in Heaven.  Yet, I would build upon what Calvin wrote to state that it is not our job to understand where the wisdom comes from, because it all comes from God, directly or indirectly.  Our job, once we have studied God’s Word, is to use that wisdom to further Christ’s kingdom on earth.

A fitting conclusion would be as Calvin concludes the first paragraph of Book First, Chapter 1:

“We are accordingly urged by our own evil things to consider the good things of God; and, indeed, we cannot aspire to Him in earnest until we have begun to be displeased with ourselves.  For what man is not disposed to rest in himself?  Who, in fact, does not thus rest, so long as he is unknown to himself; that is, so long as he is contented with his own endowments, and unconscious or unmindful of his misery?  Every person, therefore, on coming to the knowledge of himself, is not only urged to seek God, but is also led as by the hand to find him.”

  • John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (translated by Henry Beveridge)

As Hosea concludes Hosea 5:15 “in their misery they will earnestly seek me.”  But we must first realize our misery, or as Calvin states, the sinner must rid themselves of being ”unconscious or unmindful of his misery.”

If you like these Tuesday morning essays about philosophy and other “heavy topics,” but you think you missed a few, you can use this LINK. I have set up a page off the home page for links to these Tuesday morning posts. I will continue to modify the page as I add more.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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