But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory (1 Corinthians 2:7, 8).
When I was a young teenager, I discovered a new art form in a book titled Magic Eye. Each page showed a colorful pattern, like a fractal. The surface images made little sense, but a 3D picture was hidden beneath. It took a while to find the true images, but I learned that if I focused beyond the surface, I could see the image so carefully concealed.
The book fascinated me. I studied every page until I could easily see the image hidden — in plain sight, as it were.
Recently, I took my three kids to the library to replenish their supply of books. While they browsed the shelves in the kids’ section, I noticed an edition of Magic Eye.
I had not seen one in years, so I pulled it from the shelf and sat down next to my children. Excitement stirred in me as I turned the first page. I also felt a little foolish sitting at a small plastic table in the children’s area, looking for hidden images in a picture book.
I turned to the first page and tried to adjust my eyes. The secret of finding the hidden image is to look beyond the pattern, which does not come naturally. I had to defocus to a point where my eyes began to feel uncomfortable.
The first time I tried, the picture started to transform. An image began to materialize beneath the obvious one, but I had to look away before I could see the complete image. It felt so unnatural that I needed to set my gaze on something concrete and readily visible.
I turned back to the page, trying again not to look at it but through it. My gaze moved beyond the surface picture and I saw it: the hidden three-dimensional image. It was so clear. So real.
I turned to the next page. This should be easy now, I thought. But again, I had to relax my gaze and let the picture appear. Each new page took effort, but the effort was not in making it happen. It was in letting go.
Eventually looking beyond did grow more natural. Before I realized it, I had reached the end of the book. I closed it and looked around. It felt as though I was looking at the world through new eyes.
The world in front of me, around me, and so often within me seemed to serve as a reflection of the pages I had just perused. Sitting in that low, red seat, surrounded by kids leafing through children’s books, had made me feel like a child once more. Maybe that is what I needed to transform my vision.
The kids and I filed out into the winter afternoon. As I ushered them across the library parking lot and into our minivan, everything around me seemed so concrete. So tangible. But just beyond, a sort of glory whispered.
In the third chapter of 2 Corinthians, the apostle Paul writes of a veil that is cast over one’s vision, causing minds that are blinded. He adds, “Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away” (v. 16).
When our vision is unveiled, Paul adds, we behold “as in a mirror, the glory of the Lord.” As a result, we “are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory” (v. 18). This glory comes in glimpses, and even then, only sometimes — in a dream or a memory. In an idea or thought or experience. Sometimes the glimpse comes through an unexpected meeting. Sometimes in a cloudy sky or a rainfall or a sepia-toned photograph.
A glimpse of glory shimmers at the edge of our vision, and we try to focus, to make sense of the thing itself. But perhaps the glory is not in the thing itself. Perhaps if we relax, look not at it but through it — beyond it — we will see more than meets the eye.
It may be that an image will take shape — a picture, a face — that we have been waiting for so long to see, one by which we truly come to recognize ourselves and all things: Jesus, the Lord of glory, whose face shines brighter than a thousand suns if we choose to look upon Him and behold His face.
Gazing on Christ
Some scholars believe the phrase Paul used in his letter to the Corinthians, when he wrote of the Lord of glory being crucified, was borrowed from Psalm 24:
Lift up your heads, O you gates! And be lifted up, you everlasting doors! And the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts, He is the King of glory (vv. 9, 10).
We can lift our gaze upon Him, as the psalmist calls us to do, or we can turn away. Rub our eyes, refocus on the things of this world, and walk on, unseeing. When we are willing to look only upon what we readily see and feel and can easily prove, we never know what we might be missing. We never know what could be revealed if we choose to look through unveiled eyes and behold the Lord of glory.
Interestingly, the word glory does not mean only honor and majesty. It is rooted in the word weight. The glory of a thing is the weight or heaviness of a thing. When we are focused solely on the tangible world around us — our troubles and concerns — they can feel weightier than they need to be and heavier than we can bear.
But when we focus on the Lord of glory and offer Him the praise and worship that is His due, He opens our eyes and allows us to truly see. We behold His glory, and the troubles around us grow dim and dwindle to their proper size — which might be too big for us but never too big for Him.
One day, the Bible promises us, we shall behold the full glory of the Lord. We also will be transformed; the glory of God will be revealed to us and within us: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18).
And the world we see around us, so often dimmed by pain and suffering, “the creation itself,” the same passage promises, “will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God” (v. 21).
As we wait, let’s hold to hope, keeping our gaze fixed on the Lord of glory and His eternal kingdom.