I recently revisited a childhood memory through the eyes of my oldest daughter. One day after school, my growing-like-a-weed girl plopped herself and a 40-pound backpack into the front seat and informed me in an exasperated tween tone that she really needed an eye appointment. Apparently, it had been vision testing day and Riley had failed the test. For this first-born perfectionist, it was a visual emergency similar to one I'd experienced nearly thirty years prior when trying to read E’s and O’s on an eye chart.
So off to the ophthalmologist we went, where it was confirmed that she had indeed inherited the unfortunate genetics of my nearsightedness. A few days later, when Riley tried on her new (and extremely stylish) prescription glasses, she marveled at all the details she’d been missing. Her eyesight was sharpened by these lenses. Things came into focus. She could see blades of grass, the pores on her daddy’s face - we could have done without that one, and the edges of letters on her teachers’ Smart Boards. Riley hadn’t even known what she was missing until she had put on the proper lenses.
We, too, so often miss what we cannot see.
There have been times in my life when my spiritual vision sadly corresponded to my physical vision. What is spiritual vision, you might ask? It’s looking at people and problems through the eyes of God. It’s revelation from the Holy Spirit. It’s seeing God’s providence at work amidst both pleasurable and painful circumstances.
Spiritual vision isn't looking through a crystal ball but looking through the Bible, where the things of God become crystal clear.
Since middle school, my eyesight has measured 20/600. To put it into perspective, 20/200 is considered legally blind, and of course 20/20 is quantified as “perfect”. Without the proper lenses, things for me are blurry at best. I see shadows and silhouettes. I strain to recognize my husband. I bump into things, get headaches and make decisions based on incorrect information. Walking, much less driving, is dangerous.
Our lives can quickly become a blur when we aren’t putting on the spiritual lenses God has provided through prayer, Bible reading, reflection, application, church community, and more prayer. Without my "God glasses," I grow skeptical - suspicious even - of how things seem to look. I offend (and get offended) easily. I respond incorrectly and make choices based on a skewed version of the truth. I suffer from a lack of spiritual depth perception.
But when I look at people and problems through the spiritual eyes God gives me, I begin to see with remarkable clarity. I can discern more easily the truth from a lie. I can follow God's will and way, because He's written in out in His Word. I can exchange blinders for spiritual lenses to widen my perspective and help me to better understand another’s point of view.
As poet David Whyte wrote, we often see each other through “the blurred vision of velocity.” Life moves fast. We see our trials and triumphs through a fog. Instead of being still before God, we speed up life and ask God to keep up. We look at image bearers but don’t really see them. And what happens? Misunderstandings erupt. Divine details dim. The providence of God is passed by.
In the blur, we can miss our very purpose.
Scripture tells us we are all born spiritually blind (Romans 5:12). It makes sense, then, for unbelievers to continue being blind to God’s goodness, faithfulness and power. But what about those of us who are a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17)?
If we’ve been given new hearts and, thereby new eyes, at the moment of our second birth, why can’t we see 20/20 spiritually speaking? We are even told by the apostle Peter, who clearly understood spiritual blind spots, that God’s “divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness” (2 Peter 1:3).
God has equipped us for life and godliness through His Holy Spirit. He has surrounded us with brothers and sisters in Christ to remind us that we are spiritually impaired without Him. He has given us our spiritual lenses through the Bible and prayer.
But we must put them on.
It won’t do my daughter, Riley, any good to own her glasses if she forgets them at home. She won't see her teacher if the glasses are lying on her bedroom nightstand. She won’t be the student she needs to be, even though the doctor gave her a prescription and her father and I paid for it to be filled. She must wear her glasses for the glasses to be effective. This is not complicated, and yet we so often forget “to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:24).
Putting on our new self simply means having continual dialogue with God through prayer, picking up our Bibles to be sanctified by truth, placing ourselves in a community of believers, and putting our faith into action daily by obeying God (John 17:17).
We are called to abide in Jesus, because apart from Him we can do – nor see – anything. Putting on spiritual lenses takes time, and the sad and honest truth is most of us are too busy and distracted to even dust off a Bible. Yet, this is the spiritual prescription God has given us to see the world more clearly.
Maybe it’s laziness, lack of gumption or a languishing love for the Lord that’s holding you back from searching the Scriptures. Admittedly, the Bible can be confusing. Perhaps some pastor, priest or Sunday school teacher has even convinced you it’s boring. It is anything but boring.
The Bible is your passport to seeing and knowing God.
Think of it this way: Seeing an image of the Amalfi Coast or the Swiss Alps, no matter how clear and exquisite the photo, cannot compare to seeing it for yourself. A copy will never be as good as experiencing the landscape with your very own eyes. The same is true for our own journey with God. Seeing Scripture second hand through the eyes of a teacher is fine and even necessary, but it will never compare to seeing it for yourself.
We need not be intimated by navigating Scripture’s pages. We forget that God sent us the Helper, the Holy Spirit, to teach us all things (John 14:26). We forget that Jesus promises to abide in us as we abide in Him. We are never left to figure things out on our own. We forget to seek God, trusting and asking for His help in our very attempt to see Him.
We won’t get to see our story unfold unless we first read His story. His story is the history, the present and the future we need to know. Because our story, our purpose, is part of God’s plan. He will not fail us or forget to keep His promise to complete the good work He began in us at the moment of regeneration (Philippians 1:6). God is faithful.
What God wants from us is not perfection or immediate acquisition of Bible trivia; He wants surrender.
“The eyes of the LORD search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him” (2 Chronicles 16:9).
God sees us. He will strengthen those who surrender to Him. He will equip those who respond to His call. He will carry those who call to Him in prayer. He will teach those who ask Him for revelation.
Just before healing a blind man, Jesus asked a pointed question – not to the blind man but to His own disciples.
“Do you have eyes but fail to see…?” (Mark 8:18)
Earlier that day, the disciples had witnessed Jesus breaking and multiplying loaves and fish for a crowd of four thousand. What started as a scarce supply of just seven loaves grew into abundance, with seven large baskets leftover. The disciples and Jesus could eat off that reserve for at least a day or two.
Except for one problem: the disciples forgot to take the extra bread and only had one loaf left in the boat. Their forgetfulness may seem unbelievable considering it was practically manna from heaven, but how many times have you forgotten to bring home your doggy bag from a restaurant? The very one you’d already decided you were going to eat for dinner or lunch the next day? The forgetfulness of these men underscores their humanity, thus making it all the more relevant to us.
Jesus decided to use this as a teachable moment and warned the disciples to “Watch out! Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod” (Mark 8:15). The disciples didn’t understand that Jesus was warning them against the sinfulness of the religious elite. Knowing the eyes of their hearts were still closed, Jesus led them to Bethsaida, where a blind man was brought to Him for healing.
“He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. When he had spit on the man’s eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, ‘Do you see anything?’ He looked up and said, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.” Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly” (Mark 8:22-25).
The Lord wasn’t trying to stump the disciples. He isn’t trying to hide from or confuse us now. It often seems that way, however, because we fail to use the very tools He’s given us for seeing Him more clearly. We forget or purposely omit to put on our spiritual lenses.
Did you notice that Jesus took the blind man outside the village, away from the noise and distraction? He is showing us the importance of getting alone with God as He so often did (Luke 5:16).
God desperately wants us to abide in Jesus, because that is how we see Him intimately – "face to face" like Moses, or more accurately, spirit to Spirit (Exodus 33:11). God wants us to see the world clearly, just like the blind man from Bethsaida. He wants to have honest conversation with us, so we can confess to Him that things still look blurry at times.
When Jesus first spit on the man’s eyes, he didn’t see the people clearly immediately. They looked like walking trees. We don’t always see issues clearly the first time either (or tenth or hundredth time), even when we are earnestly seeking the Lord.
With the blind man, who is nameless because he represents all of us, it took more time with Jesus. He needed to be touched again by the Healer. This wasn’t a result of any limitation from the Lord but a heavy lean towards relationship. Jesus is always after our hearts, our abiding in Him and He in us, even as He’s healing our eyes.
God doesn’t aim to line us up in the proverbial vision tests of life only to see us fail.
He wants our spiritual sight strengthened through Him, which can only happen by abiding in Him. God wants us seeing 20/20.
Just as an ophthalmologist asks you to follow the light in the dark room during the exam, Jesus asks us to follow Him, the Light of the world (John 8:12). As A.W. Tozer wrote, "Faith is the gaze of a soul upon a saving God."
Gaze at God this year to know Him more deeply, love others more fully, and to see the world around you more clearly. Abide in Jesus.