I loved the verse in 1 Corinthians 13, in the King James Version, “Now I see through a glass darkly, but then I will see face to face.” My childhood had a lot of tough times, especially in the years before I turned thirteen, but, when I walked with my dog or rode a bike through the neighborhood, especially at night, I would look through windows at the well-lit homes of happy families. There were televisions (a little consumerist envy) and there were board games, and there was no broken furniture or fear that furniture might break any minute near some of those very nicely dressed children. I wanted to be inside, face to face, and I was pretty sure that was the promise that the old apostle, as preached by the old pastor in that old Presbyterian church in Des Moines, offered me.
I also walked past dirty windows, like mine. I was aware that some of the folks behind those windows had even tougher situations — more fear, more death, more damage to the spirit … and more children, which always makes more un-employment worse, (though I admit I thought it would be wonderful to have just one other child with whom to share the secrets.) Some of those windows showed love and it was sometimes more visible than in windex-enhanced social settings.
When I was a teenager, I spoke like a teenager, I criticized like a teenager, I joined Alateen like a teenager, and I also discovered that my favorite verse was really translated, “now I see in a mirror, dimly …” I learned to look at my mirrored life and see the love there – broken love, enduring love, fragile love, and the love that can be buried but always rises. My father quit drinking, his PTSD became manageable, my mother became well, and I grew into my own story with all its clanging symbols and mountains to be moved. Anyone who knows me knows that there came a time when I looked into the mirror to see a bottle there myself.
Now I am an adult, and that has its own barriers to face-to-face recognition, but I’ve decided that my ability to do so doesn’t matter nearly so much (sorry psychiatrists) as my trust that I am so recognized.
And yet, for all the aging and all the new translations that change old hopes, I’ve kept a great love for the King James Version of that scripture and for gazing in the dirty windows, the sad places or hurting places or poor places, with more or less love, that more or less can untie itself from the situation. Most of them will never feature in a “makeover-show” on the now ubiquitous televisions, but it is there that I look from the sidewalk as night draws in, and know I see home.
MAREN C. TIRABASSI is the author of nineteen books, including the recent From the Psalms to the Cloud – Connecting to the Digital Age with Maria Mankin (Pilgrim Press) familiar favorites like Caring for Ourselves while Caring for our Elders and All Whom God Has Joined (resources for same-sex marriage) and last year’s holiday fiction The Shakespeare Reader and Other Christmas Tales. She’s been a UCC pastor for thirty-five years, currently serving in the New Hampshire conference, and she loves science fiction conventions, quilting and beagles.