Seeing Clearly

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My sensible, new glasses. My hubby asked why I didn’t chose something a bit more fancy.

This spring, I finally relented and got prescription glasses. Prior to that I had all the usual symptoms: blurred vision when reading, the need for increased light at night, and, most alarming of all, my arm had become too short.

I’m still getting used to these seeing fixtures now precariously suspended on my formerly unadorned nose. I should probably get a locating device affixed to them since I misplace them on a routine basis. And no one could have prepared me for the amount of effort it requires to keep the lenses smear-free!

Glasses are a perfect parallel to my spiritual life. Sometimes my vision gets blurry, I can no longer see correctly, and need help to read the way. Often, despite the help, my lenses get dirty and need cleaning. It takes both a vision aid and regular maintenance for me to see properly.

When I first met Jesus, it was as though God removed my filthy glasses—ones I had no idea I was even wearing—replacing them with a heavenly prescription so that I could see clearer. Everything appeared much brighter and made so much more sense. Even the Bible, which once was merely words I strained to understand but which held no meaning, came alive.

The old glasses were covered with the film of lies I had believed and filters I had affixed. There were words graffitied across the lenses that had, at some point, been spoken and stuck to the surface. There were the scratches of sin etching the glass and insecurity that had loosened the frame. Those glasses had become too heavy for my face and didn’t fit me. They weren’t God’s prescription.

But even my God-glasses need to be cleaned on a regular basis. When I’m with God, he slides off my glasses and polishes off the pollution to enable me to see beauty once again. He tells me not to worry that they get dirty so easily, but to simply return for a regular cleaning.

I can’t just wear the glasses, gain his perspective, and forget about them—forget about him. If I don’t clean my God-glasses by reading his word, praying, listening, and gathering together with other Christ-followers, my vision is impaired and I’m less able to see clearly. With a hindered perspective, I stumble in the dark, I grow frustrated in my own attempts, I blame others for my lack of vision.

But when I abide with God—regularly sit and chat with him—linger in his presence, soak in his word, and meet up with others who love him, my vision brightens and my outlook becomes clearer. Though still imperfect, I can read the terrain of my life a little better.

I’m also more likely to see circumstances and events from God’s perspective. I don’t feel the need to gloss things over attempting to make them something they aren’t or ignore them out of frustration. I’m more apt to love a little more fully, behave a little more graciously, and tread a little more confidently. I can see better to go to the places he’s asked me to go. I’m less afraid of the dark.

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. ~ 1 Corinthians 13:12

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  1. Do your glasses need cleaning or maybe you need an entire new prescription? Go to God. His are the perfect fit.

 

The God We Didn’t Know

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Sketch of Napoleon crowing himself. ~ Drawing by David, kept at the Louvre.

I’ve noticed that a lot of animosity hurled toward God is misdirected.

God has become the cosmic scapegoat for many misdemeanors of mankind. He’s the fault of others’ failings. The illness for the ills injected by humans upon humans. The ugliness freely deposited by others. And this blame drags heavy, like the cross he staggered beneath and heaved up the hill to his death; unjustly accused even then.

Let’s be honest, humans are notorious for redirecting blame.

How could God allow children to starve? we exclaim as we dab our mouths, rub our bellies, and declare how stuffed we are. How could God allow women and children to be abused? while our insatiable appetite for pornography helps fuel the multi-billion dollar human trafficking industry. How can God allow mass genocide? as we welcome the supposed savior and then keep silent to save ourselves. How could God allow the homeless to freeze overnight? as we cross the street, lock our doors, and add an extra blanket to our beds.

Our hostility towards God can also be fueled by former hurt. We may have been wounded by those who should have known better; some who even claimed to know God. With that layer of proximity, there can be a propensity for the hurt to spill over and affect our perception of God. Sometimes we purposely distance ourselves from God in the aftermath of such disillusionment and disappointment, ascribing undo blame and fearing to love a God whose people behave so poorly.

But abuse and neglect, hatred and homicide, others’ judgment and exclusion, is not a reflection of God’s nature, but more accurately a picture of people who have forgotten who he is. Perhaps they never really knew him in the first place, or what they do know of him, they dislike or disregard. Possibly they prefer to pick and choose the parts they can accept and reject the rest. In all truth, often we’re so caught up being the ruler of our own little kingdoms that we sacrifice others in our self-coronation. So caught up, in fact, that we don’t really understand who God is, and often could care less.

And like any relationship, fraught with misunderstanding and confusion, fault lines and frayed edges, unscalable distance and disappointment, so too is our relationship with God. It’s difficult to know someone we’ve never really encountered or regularly spend time with.

This world, and all that’s in it, is a gift. As with all gifts, after they’ve been given, it becomes up to the receiver how they’re treated and maintained. God generously gave and let us be the caretakers. He offers help if we make room, but so often it’s too crowed in the kingdom of one. That’s when things tend to get ugly.

But every now and then, we make room and let Him in, and we begin to see beauty, and truth, and love.

We begin to realize that:

The LORD is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. The LORD is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made.”  ~ Psalm 145:8-9

We learn that:

“Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”  ~Lamentations 3:22-23

We hear that:

“The LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you or forsake you.”.  ~Deuteronomy 31:6b

“A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.”

~Psalm 68:5

When we encounter and accept the truth of God’s surprising love, both our heart and outlook is altered. We are sorry for our failings. We understand how we’ve misplaced blame, and learn to face our faults. Our relationships begin to shift, and instead of exploiting, we look at all the things he entrusted us with a little differently. Some of the things that formerly preoccupied us fade in significance. God’s gentle, patient, kind, healing, and unconditional love propels us, and as we grow stronger, we in turn help strengthen. Beauty ensues and love stands a fighting chance.

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1. In what ways have you blamed God for the failings of others?

2. In what ways have you contributed to another’s pain or misfortune? Ask God for forgiveness, for the strength to change, and, if possible, make restitution.

3. If you sense you’ve never really known God, He is just a prayer away.