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Seeing Through a Glass Darkly

In First Corinthians Paul writes eloquently about how we think we know what love is and how our challenge is to keep maturing in our understanding of love. He conveys his message with the very powerful image of ‘now we are seeing as through a glass darkly but then we shall be seeing face to face.’

Seeing through a glass darkly…trying to see in the midst of darkness … It takes time … to soften our eyes … to see in the dark. It takes an openness … to allow what is there to become visible … to not move too quickly to the light. It takes a spirit of welcome to see beyond what we want to see.

Seeing through a glass darkly…I find that image an appropriate one to describe the experience of the Engaging Impasse Circle participants as we engage our experience of impasse.

At first, as individuals describe their impasse experiences, the situations seem very clear. But gradually awareness dawns that we are seeing through a glass darkly. The impasse situations exist within our cultural, societal and religious systems covered over by beliefs, values and behaviors which have become normative and often obscure what is really going on. As we begin to enter into contemplation, to take a long loving look at the real, we become still and more aware of what is getting in the way of seeing clearly. We soften our eyes, open our hearts and welcome new understandings.

We discover that what we thought was impasse, what we thought was creating a sense of powerlessness, is not the whole reality at all. We begin to see things differently, with a more direct apprehension of what is happening, and this shifts the hold those experiences have on us. We begin, you might say, to see through the impasse and come face to face with the real.

When the Circle process is completed we have not fixed impasse, we probably have not even changed the situation but we have changed how we approach impasse in our lives and work. We have begun to see more clearly the reality in which we live and we can respond in new and creative ways.

This series of reflections entitled, Seeing through the Impasse, will touch on the process of seeing. It will shed light on what keeps us from seeing more clearly the lives we are meant to live as daughters and sons of God — the kindom that Jesus lived and to which we are called to continue.

Periodically Seeing through the Impasse will provide a space to reflect on the insights from some of the best of our contemporary thinkers or to share poems and prayers that address this complex reality. It will offer personal reflections on how engaging impasse through communal contemplation and dialogue is transformative. It will engage you with new insights and challenge you to see more clearly where the future is calling us. In addition there will be suggested readings and related websites for you to pursue.

Hopefully, you will find these reflections provocative and might even feel compelled to offer your own reflection to be considered for posting. You may send them to Seeing through the Impasse at

Written by Nancy Sylvester, IHM

© 2008-2012 Institute for Communal Contemplation and Dialogue
Reprint with permission