Seeing past the lenses

by Mark McDonald

All my life, I’ve heard sayings like, “A picture is worth 1,000 words” and “Seeing is believing.” We often believe that pictures tell the truth. They speak to our soul and direct our thoughts. We’ve seen pictures that capture moments forever etched in our memory, from a crying child to a plane flying into a building. For the most part, we’ve always been able to assume that a picture is proof.

No more.

With the advent of software that can manipulate photos reaching near perfect quality, it is sometimes hard to determine if a picture is actually telling the truth. Apps have filters and lenses that can change our appearance before we post our picture so people will see us how we want to be seen. Sometimes, we can spot the fake quickly. Sometimes, we are misled and manipulated, then feel foolish for our impassioned response.

In a letter to the early Christian church, Paul wrote, “For now we see in the mirror dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will be known fully, even as I have been fully known” (2 Cor. 13:12, NRSV).

Even 2,000 years ago, seeing wasn’t always believing. Why? Because we can’t always see the whole picture. We see pictures through our own world view and experiences, and those sometimes cloud our judgement. 

Still, there is something about a picture that is so very compelling. 

What I believe Paul was saying is that we should never assume we see a picture fully for what it is. Only God can see into a person’s heart and know what is truly going on, beneath or beyond the appearances (the picture) we normally see. So, we should be careful not to assume we know everything simply because of what we saw. 

We should also find great hope in knowing that while we are always doctoring our own pictures (how we look to others), there is a God who sees past that and loves us unconditionally. We may not understand that from what we see in this world, but eventually we will see it more and more clearly.

Mark McDonald