#seeingclearly, grace, Spirituality

Seeing clearly

Life is looking brighter for me these days—literally! I had a cataract removed two weeks ago and a new lens implanted into my left eye. The results have been amazing—and I still have the other eye to go!

Since I was a child I could barely see past my nose without glasses or contacs. With my ‘new’ eye, I currently only need readers. Colors are more vibrant, and everything has a crisp edge, like the sky after a storm has passed. Through my right eye the world has a yellow tint, like an old, faded photograph. I’m excited to get both eyes finished and really be able to see!

I feel like the blind man that Jesus healed in Mark 8:22-26. Jesus spits on the man’s eyes (Holy Spit!) and asks him if he can see anything. The man responds that he can see people walking around, but they look like trees— I can relate! Jesus places his hands on the man’s eyes again and when the man opens them, he can see clearly. My new eye feels as miraculous as the ones healed by Jesus.

Jesus had a lot to say about sight, usually in the figurative sense. In the verses right before Jesus heals the blind man, he has a conversation with his disciples about what it means to see.

The disciples were sometimes comically literal with Jesus’ teachings. In Mark 8:14, someone has forgotten to get bread for the group, which is ironic, considering Jesus just fed 4000 people on the hillside with only seven loaves of bread.

Jesus overhears them and warns, “Be careful. Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod.” The men scratch their heads and say to themselves, “Is he saying this because we forgot the bread?”

Really guys? At this point Jesus loses patience with his slow-witted disciples:

“Why are you talking about the fact that you don’t have any bread? Don’t you grasp what has happened? Don’t you understand? Are your hearts so resistant to what God is doing? Don’t you have eyes? Why can’t you see? Don’t you have ears? Why can’t you hear?” (Mark 8:17-18)

Have you ever had this exchange with your children? Don’t you have eyes? Can’t you see the dirty clothes lying everywhere? But Jesus always has a deeper meaning. Here he is talking about our perception of what we see. Just as my eyes have had a film over them caused by the cataracts, our spiritual vision can be distorted.

Years ago when I was studying to be a hospital chaplain, each week I had to write up a conversation that I had with a patient or family member and present it in front of my group of supervisors and fellow students. It was a harrowing experience because the supervisors were not looking for how accurately I could recount the exchange, but for how my stuff got in the way of ministering to the person. Did I let personal prejudice keep me from reaching out? Did anger and grief from my past get in the way of hearing what the patient was saying? How did my emotions interfere or enhance my ability to be present in the room?

Peeling away these layers of yellow film from my spiritual eyes was, and is, painful.  It is much easier to let my biases and assumptions about others keep me from seeing them clearly. But then I am missing out on seeing them through God’s eyes.

One of the lessons I learned through those difficult chaplaincy training years was that often when someone causes a strong negative reaction in me, it is more about me than them. Have you ever found yourself irritated by someone that everyone else seems to love? This happened to me recently and I had to pray about the situation and ask God what was going on with me —was I jealous? Feeling threatened? Or were there legitimate issues that needed to be addressed?

I’ve found that when I bring this type of problem to the Lord, I find clarity. God helps me see the other person through his eyes of love and the scales fall from my eyes. Sometimes I need additional prayer treatments since the film tends to grow back over my heart. Getting rid of my ingrained ways of viewing others can be a slow process.

My daily prayer is for discernment, so that I can see others through God’s eyes and understand his calling in my life. Like Paul’s prayer in Ephesians, I want clear and focused eyes that allow me to see what God’s desires are for me.

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