Spirituality is about seeing. It’s not about earning or achieving. It’s about relationship rather than results or requirements. Once you see, the rest follows. You don’t need to push the river, because you are in it. The life is lived within us, and we learn how to say yes to that life.
It is not enough that we behave better; we must come to see reality differently.
~William H. Shannon
These two spiritual advisors imply that seeing well is a very important thing. With new sight comes transformation. When Jesus announced his ministry in the temple he quoted the words of Isaiah:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
While he did heal blind eyes, I believe His ministry was to open our spiritual eyes to a new way of seeing. John the Baptist foretold His way with the call to“Repent!” – that is, change your mind. See anew. Megaphone: And now for something completely different.
The God-man that came was (and is) so vastly different from our flat, linear perspectives and expectations that we could not and cannot truly see him. Though He came wrapped in flesh like ours, training our eyes to recognize Him is like trying to see another dimension – we simply do not have the capacity to comprehend Him. The Pharisees, the disciples, and others of His day kept trying to sort Him out – to quantify, categorize and file Him. They tried to put a measurable form around the Formless. This is what we still do with Him today, we who have the knowledge of good and evil. We judge and sort and figure out. Even John, who had announced His ministry as something new eventually asked Him, “Are you the one?” Jesus often examined His disciples’ “sight” by asking, “Who do you say I am?” And after all that they had witnessed, the disciples still expected that the coming of the promised Kingdom meant a powerful defeat of the Romans …Master, is it now? How ‘bout now? Even after his death and resurrection – ok, now? How resistant we are to see anew!
Without new eyes we stagnate. We may do good things and know good stuff. But true holiness, not just moralism but a shining resistance to the corrupt world order, eludes us. Because of our limited vision, violence is still less scandalous to us than the forgiveness of enemies. The weapons of the Kingdom – love, hope, longsuffering, sacrifice and peace- seem weak and foolish compared to raw power. Dividing and splitting up in order to preserve our egos and sense of rightness makes more sense than self-emptying for the sake of love and relationship. We even dare to believe that our exclusion of the “other”, whoever that might be, is pleasing somehow to God.
The stories about seeing (previously posted here) do give us a bit of a hint about how to develop new eyes. Inasmuch as Jesus is our orthodoxy, the Truth itself, He is also the Light by which we see. We are physically blind if we have no light to bring images into our retinas and we are spiritually blind without the One who is Light. A mentor of mine once said, “Show me how you read [the Bible] and I’ll show you how you counsel… and how you teach, read a novel, watch a film, relate to people, etc. The opposite is also true, show me how you relate to people and I’ll show you how you read the Bible. And, how you understand God. The lens by which we see determines everything and our lenses are greatly distorted.
In the story of John 9 the Pharisees interrogate the blind man to figure out who Jesus could be. They are looking to fit Him into a theological box (asking an outcast from the temple for theological insight – too funny!) The blind man didn’t bother with checking out Jesus through the expected paradigm. The text doesn’t record that he even asked Jesus for help. He simply said yes. Later he reflected, “I don’t know the theological explanation for who this guy is, all I know is I was blind and now I see.” Then, in the topsy-turvy way of the Jesus paradigm, he confronted the Pharisees in their blindness: “Why this is a marvelous thing, that you do not know where He is from; yet He has opened my eyes!”
So as the blind man becomes sighted, he teaches us to see. His encounter with Jesus began to reveal to him the Truth. I think he teaches us to repent of preconceived ideas (no matter how proud we are of our Bible training) and be with Jesus. Say yes. Open up the hidden places of your heart to the “Light of Divine Scrutiny”, as Richard Foster says.
We are in desperate need of this spiritual formation. So much more is needed in order to grow into our authentic selves. Jesus is the hermeneutic through which we may see and begin to understand. He is the lens through which we interpret everything. And as we meet Him , let’s gather together (church, ekklesia, literally means the gathering or assembly) to tell our stories of Divine encounter so that the eyes of our community can also be enlightened. Perhaps we will also begin to see each other through His eyes as well.
One more post on seeing to come!
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.