As long as I can remember, I have been fascinated by little babies. They are often immensely curious and entertaining. It has been my pleasure here at Legacy Institute to see the students of two of our employees (one of whom is a third year student as a well as a farm employee) grow from being a little baby to now a toddler. His name, as near as I can transliterate it, is Phumitah, which means “good view” in Thai according to his father.
Phumitah is a very sociable little guy, as one would assume from growing up around twenty or so larger people to fuss over him throughout the day. This morning the little guy had been brought by one of the young ladies who assists his mother in the kitchen to the front of the teacher’s house, where he was happily crawling and walking around near the stairs, until he became attracted by the glass door of the teacher’s house itself.
It greatly amused me to see little Phumitah attempt to play with the cute baby he saw in the glass. He did not realize he was looking at his own reflection. He would wave at the baby, attempt to kiss it, and try to touch the baby (only touching the glass), and then crawl over to the other side of the door to find the baby, only to find none. He kept on doing this many times, very intent on playing with the cute baby he saw in the reflection (he does not, after all, see very many other babies in his life).
It would be easy to make light of a little baby’s struggle to understand that he is seeing his own relfection in a glass and not seeing another being on the other side. It is hard for us to understand reflections. Indeed, the use of glass and mirrors to make rooms appear larger is a trick that was used to great effect in the buildings of architect Pierre Koenig , who happened to be one of my college professors before his death some years ago. If we can be tricked by glass and its properties, we can forgive a little baby, who lacks our knowledge and awareness of the world, for being likewise tricked.
Glass is an odd sort of material. Sometimes it allows us to see through it easily, allowing us to enjoy doors and windows that make our rooms feel more expansive than they otherwise would be. At other times, however, the view is reflective or tinted, or even distorted, giving a false impression of what is to be seen. Therefore, there are times when all of us are faced with the task of seeing through a glass darkly, not sure if what we are seeing of the world is what is on the other side of the glass or only a reflection of our own personality and character and experiences. Again, this is a problem for adults, not only for toddlers still unsteady on their feet.
Perhaps this is what was meant when Paul talked about how now we see through a glass darkly, but in the future we will see in full. As great as our capacity is for understanding, our perceptions are still greatly compromised by our circumstances, our hopes and fears, and our experiences. And so we must recognize that how we perceive the world is not necessarily (or even often) the way the world really is. Someday little Phumitah will learn that the cute little baby he sees through a glass darkly is really himself. And perhaps, if we are wise, we will learn that in life we often see ourselves when we think we see the world around us. May that discovery come in time; all too often we are all little children unsteady on our feet and lacking knowledge and understanding of what is around us. Hopefully we are as eager to learn and to be pleased as the little ones around us who squeal happily in trying to discover the little baby on the other side of the glass. At least we can hope.