by Linda Rex
One thing I’ve noticed since moving to the metropolis of Nashville is how common it is to find television sets in restaurants. Thoughtful restaurant managers keep the volume down but turn on the captions so customers can follow what is happening. Others don’t seem to care what’s on the television or whether or not customers can understand what is going on.
I remember sitting in a restaurant last year and counting at least ten TV’s, most of which were located in or near the bar. While customers were eating, they could watch sports events, game shows or the local news. The captions helped us to see what the story was about.
The other night I sat in a tiny restaurant with two televisions, one of which was showing the local news with the volume turned down and the captions turned off. I watched this TV for a while, trying to see what was going on with the severe weather threat I was sitting out, but I couldn’t figure it out—I don’t read lips. The other TV was showing a Marvel cartoon series and had the volume turned all the way up. But I had my back to the television, and I couldn’t see the show. Personally I would have preferred having both TV’s off so I could hear the great jazz music being played on the other side of the restaurant. But that’s just me.
Having access to televisions as well as smart phones and tablets means we are constantly being exposed to visual stimuli. No matter where we turn, we are seeing something which is impacting us in some way. This impact can be positive or negative, depending on the content of what we are seeing. And our brains and psyches are processing this massive amount of material moment by moment. It is no wonder we feel stressed out and overwhelmed at times.
I’m not against TV’s, smart phones or tablets. I think they are great tools for living when they are used with wisdom. But also I think they can distract us from taking the time and making the effort to look at so many other things which matter and which are of lasting value. We can be so busy looking at this visual content we don’t take time to look within ourselves or into the Word of God, or try to see the spiritual realities we are included in through Jesus Christ and by the Spirit.
The apostle Paul said, “We walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7). But walking by sight is a whole lot easier—it comes naturally to us. Seeing with the eyes of faith means we must stop believing everything we see. What we see, feel, touch—what our senses tell us—does not always speak the truth when it comes to things of the Spirit or the things which have to do with the person God made us to be in Jesus Christ.
Isaiah had a vision of God seated on his throne. The beauty, majesty and glory of it all overwhelmed Isaiah—in seeing God for Who God was, he saw himself for who he was. His response to this vision of God was “Woe is me, for I am ruined! … I am a man of unclean lips, …” He saw the spiritual realities for just a moment, and his unworthiness and brokenness crushed him. God sent his angel to offer him mercy and cleansing, otherwise he could not have borne the spiritual insight being given him.
I’ve often thought about Jesus’ words spoken in his Sermon on the Mount—he said the pure in heart would be blessed, for they would see God. At first glance it seems he is talking about when we all die, and is saying if we’ve been good people, then we will get to have the blessing of seeing God. But really—who among us can really say to the core of their being, they are pure in heart? I know I would like to be, but I also know I am not.
Only Jesus, when he died and when he lived on earth while sharing our humanity, was truly pure in heart, and only he has seen the Father and lived. For us as human beings, to see God and live required God to enter our humanity and become one of us. When we see God in Jesus his Son, we see ourselves as forgiven and beloved children, not as broken rejects or unworthy throw-offs. Our purity of heart comes from Jesus.
The eyes of faith enable us to see God, for Jesus was and is the perfect ikon or exact representation of God’s being (Heb. 1:3). And in seeing God in Jesus by the Spirit, we are abundantly blessed. Our relationships with the Father, through the Son and in the Spirit, which we share with one another in the Spirit, are spiritual realities, which if kept in the forefront of our mind and heart, provide us with joy, peace and hope in the midst of whatever life may throw at us.
This is why it is important for us to slow down and look at these spiritual realities, which involve the eyes of faith rather than the touchy, feely visual stimuli of our technology-driven world. Taking time to look at Jesus Christ enables us to see beyond our flawed humanity into the humanity God created for us in his Son and by his Spirit in which we can see God and live. We can, in taking these moments for reflection and contemplation of the spiritual realities, begin to see ourselves and God for who we really are, and be blessed by the grace and love inherent in our relationship with the Father, through the Son and in the Spirit.
When we take the time to contemplate and reflect on God and our life with him through Christ and in the Spirit, we begin to find a capacity to see the world around us and the people in it with new eyes. Our brokenness and struggles become the common brokenness and struggles of every other human being. The grace we receive through Jesus is the same grace offered to every other man, woman and child who lives in this cosmos. And the broken creation becomes a place where God is at work even now to heal, restore and renew, and in which we can participate in his work of bringing about a new way of living and being that has eternal value. May we learn to see with Jesus’ eyes of faith.
Holy Father, thank you for giving us new eyes through your Son Jesus and by your Spirit. Thank you for enabling us to see the true spiritual realities—may they grow more clear to us day by day, and may they fill us with joy, hope and peace. May your grace and love keep our hearts pure so we may see you in us, with us and for us, through Jesus our Lord. Amen.
“Then I said, ‘Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.’ Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a burning coal in his hand, which he had taken from the altar with tongs. He touched my mouth with it and said, “Behold, this has touched your lips; and your iniquity is taken away and your sin is forgiven.” Isaiah 6:5–7 NASB
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Matthew 5:8 NASB
By Linda Rex
During my time pursuing my master’s degree with Grace Communion Seminary I was deeply impacted in my understanding of God and humanity and life itself through the instruction and counsel of my professors. I found theology to be quite fascinating, especially when it intersects with science. This is why reading T.F. Torrance’s books, though quite a challenging process, is something I enjoy doing.
One of my professors, Dr. John McKenna, gave an interesting workshop that brought together the science of light with the biblical revelation of light. I had known that the word light is often used in the Bible and many times in reference to God. But as we went through and talked about light and God and humanity and the creation in which we live, I began to “see” light in a new way.
One of my favorite traditional hymns talks about God and light. It is thought-provoking poetry that points to the glory of the God who is Light:
Immortal, invisible, God only wise,
In light inaccessible hid from our eyes,
Most blessed, most glorious, the Ancient of Days,
Almighty, victorious, thy great Name we praise.
Unresting, unhasting, and silent as light,
Nor wanting, nor wasting, thou rulest in might;
Thy justice like mountains high soaring above
Thy clouds which are fountains of goodness and love.
To all life thou givest, to both great and small;
In all life thou livest, the true life of all;
We blossom and flourish, like leaves on the tree,
Then wither and perish; but nought changeth thee.
Great Father of Glory, pure Father of Light,
Thine angels adore thee, all veiling their sight;
All praise we would render; O help us to see
‘Tis only the splendor of light hideth thee!
(Walter C. Smith, 1824-1908)
Light and life are inseparable. When my daughter and I visited Mammoth Cave earlier this year, we learned that there are creatures who live there in complete darkness. But they are unable to live in the light. And a person or animal that can see and live in the light will not be able to see at all when in that deep darkness. They may even lose their ability to see if they remain there for an extended length of time without some form of light to penetrate their eyes.
Without the light of the sun, we would not be able to exist or do much of what we consider necessary to life. Light is essential to our life. Just as we need the physical light of the sun to sustain our life, we also need the inner light of God to sustain us and give us both physical and spiritual life. Our life, our existence and being, are dependent upon the Father of Light and the Light of the world, his Son Jesus Christ. Light and life are inseparable.
Light itself is invisible. What we commonly see or experience is the refraction/reflection of light. Jesus described the Holy Spirit as the wind we cannot see but we experience the effects of all around us. In the same way, when we “look” at God, he is invisible. But he is Light. We experience the reality of God in everyday life in every part of our existence.
In Christ we have been freed from the chains of darkness and brought into his ‘marvelous light.’ What this means is that we have been brought out of the cave of darkness, evil and depravity and into the light of God’s love. It’s going to take a while to adjust. We have to learn new ways of thinking and doing life. We will find it much easier and more comfortable to run back into the darkness. It will seem a lot less painful and frustrating. It will seem to be the way of freedom. But true freedom is finding our life in the Light and allowing that Light to slowly and surely transform and heal us.
Holy Father of Light and Jesus, Light of the World, we praise you. Thank you for your gift of life and light. Grant us the grace to embrace your gift and to never cease to turn to you for the strength to hold tight to all you have given us. Thank you that it’s not all up to us. You hold us in your hands and shine your marvelous light upon us in unceasing love. We trust in you, Jesus, and in your healing love. Fill us the marvelous Light of your Holy Spirit. In your name we pray. Amen.
“All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and darkness did not overcome it.” John 1:3–5 NIV