Two thousand years ago, a mirror was a highly polished piece of metal, maybe bronze or silver. Because it was hand-hammered and buffed, a person’s reflection in it would be imperfect – there would be distortions, and probably some dark spots. (Not that most of us really want total accuracy, when we look at a mirror, but that’s beside the point.) In those days, if you wanted a more accurate idea of what you actually looked like, you would need to step into the brightest light you could find and view your reflection from several different angles.
When Paul said “now we see through a mirror dimly” he was comparing our limited understanding of life/the world/our situation with the distorted reflection that one saw when looking at piece of polished metal.
Here’s the Amplified version of 1 Corinthians 13:12:
For now we are looking in a mirror that gives only a dim (blurred) reflection of reality as in a riddle or enigma, but then [when perfection comes] we shall see in reality and face to face! Now I know in part (imperfectly); but then I shall know and understand fully and clearly, even in the same manner as I have been fully and clearly known and understood [by God].
None of us have a clear picture of what is going on in the world – or even in our own lives. Our reflection is incomplete. There are blank spots and distortions. In order to get the best possible understanding, we need to inspect our situations from a variety of viewpoints, and in the brightest light we can find – the light of God’s truth.
Even in the best of circumstances, our vision is limited.
But the great news is, God’s is not. He sees everything and, even better, He understands what it all means. He knows how it all connects. From His perspective, He can guide us along the wisest path forward. All we have to do is ask.
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. James 1:5 NIV