The Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearances or on the height of his
stature . . . for the Lord does not see as mortals see. They look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”
1 Samuel 16:7
As he walked along, Jesus saw a man blind from birth…
If you make it to church this week, you’ll hear two biblical stories juxtaposing blindness and sight. The first invites us to see as God sees, past appearances to the heart; the second tells of how Jesus heals a man born blind while the religious authorities, who witness this miracle, choose not to see who Jesus is. It’s not a story you can read or hear once and fully understand, but in it I hear an invitation to receive the light of Jesus and allow him to open our eyes.
There are, in fact, many forms of blindness. No one knows this better than the physically blind, who must live alongside those of us who are blind in other ways, but with far less awareness of our sight limitations.
For how well our eyes function isn’t the only thing that affects what we see. Sight depends on where we stand relative to what we’re looking at. It also depends on relationship: we can’t see people clearly if we aren’t in right relationship with them. And our sight is influenced by what we’re willing to see, which makes vision, in part, a matter of intention. Finally, there is the factor of character. As C.S. Lewis wrote in the children’s story, The Magician’s Nephew, “What you see depends a great deal on where you are standing; it also depends on what sort of person you are.”
This reflection is the third in a series for Lent, entitled, “How Can I Have Faith?” I’m exploring what pastor and author Andy Stanley calls “faith catalysts,” those experiences or practices that deepen our relationship with God. He suggests five such catalysts; and last week, I wrote about two: practical teaching and providential relationships. This week, I invite you to consider a third: what Stanley calls “private disciplines,” –all the ways we show up and tend to our relationship with God, so that He can open our eyes.
Private disciplines are born of intention and practice. They are efforts through which we suspend our own vision, if only for a few moments each day, and ask for different lenses through which to see. For me, this is the heart of private prayer. As I sit–or walk or ride my bike–I pray for the grace to see with God’s eyes. I pray for illumination and guidance; for insight and clarity. And I pray for the courage to walk by faith with whatever glimpses of insight I am given.
While there’s nothing particularly dramatic about private prayer disciplines, perhaps more than any other catalyst, they are what sustain a life of faith. The Jesuit author, James Martin, encourages us to think of our relationship with God as a friendship that we deepen through the same practices with which we tend to any relationship we value, including spending time together. “Knowing God,” he writes, quoting theologian Karl Rahner, “is more important than knowing about God.”
Willow Creek pastor Bill Hybels calls his private discipline “chair time with God.” In his book, Simplify: 10 Practices to Unclutter Your Soul, he writes,
Let me offer you a challenge: Find a spot in your home–for me, it’s a wooden rocking chair by the fireplace–and sit there for fifteen minutes a day, connecting with God. Read His Word, open up your life to Him, and listen for His whispers. When you’re in that chair and you’re in a right relationship with God, it secures your identity. It simplifies your agenda.
And I would add: it opens my eyes. Not every day. Not as clearly as I would like. But enough to keep me going.
I believe that God wants us to see–not that God abhors darkness, for as the psalmist says, “darkness and light to God are both alike.” But healing and clarity often take the form of light, inner light that enables us to see ourselves, one another, and the world more clearly. With inner light, we’re given enough to go by–not for the whole journey, perhaps, but for the steps we need to take today. “Lead kindly light,” go the words of another old hymn, “Lead, Thou, me on. I do not need to see the distant shore. One step is enough for me.”