We have arrived at the midway point of one of the most interesting years in my lifetime. As a student of history, I know better than to say it’s different than other watershed years, or that it will be long remembered as have others, but I think we all sense that it is special, and not special in a good way.
Twenty-twenty came upon us with a ready-made prophetic tagline built right into its number. You didn’t need to be much of a seer, or a marketing expert, to pronounce the year of 20/20 vision, or “the time has arrived when people will begin to see things clearly.” Hey, I don’t blame them. I still remember the clever “We are going to experience heaven in 2011.” Not only were most prophetic voices silent in regards to what was to come, the 20/20 vision stuff actually seems like the opposite of what we have at the moment. Are you seeing things clearly?
However you see the world in this hour, you aren’t alone, and almost certainly, you see it exactly opposite of how someone else does. Is it a pandemic or a plandemic? Is the economy tanking or in a market correction? Some say they can clearly see this is entirely political and that it will go away after the election. Others see groups meeting without masks and social distancing and can clearly see ignorance. My point is that everyone is looking at the same thing, and seeing it completely differently. One could say that the only thing that is clear is that nothing is clear.
The lack of clear vision is a story as old as the bible itself. In Eden, our founding parents can use their natural eyes, but they are blinded to their own natural condition. They choose to govern themselves by conscience and the result is bittersweet: they can see what they could not see before, but they are powerless to do anything about it. They died to who they were. They died to who they could be. They woke up to their own nakedness. Seeing clearly wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.
Of course, the flip side of that story is what they DIDN’T do. They didn’t choose the tree of life, which meant they didn’t eat from the fruit that could give them what they needed. I am of the persuasion that God’s desire for Adam and Eve was that they learn of their nakedness together, through the eyes of their Father, by consuming the fruit from the correct tree. He didn’t want them in the dark concerning who they were, he just wanted them to come to the revelation through he was.
Because our story starts with man’s scales dropping from his eyes through his own consciousness, we have no chance of “seeing clearly” in the human experience. The Genesis story serves as man’s attempt to explain why his vision is blurred, his heart is desperate, and his future is aimless. If the story ended there, we would be most miserable.
But of course the story does not end there. God doesn’t boot man from the Garden and warn him not to return. He sends him out and follows him into the wilderness of the world. When God dwelt among men in the form of the man Jesus, he spoke to the condition of man’s blindness in that fascinating exchange with the man born blind. Jesus had just healed him, doing what had never been done in the recorded history of the bible, a blind man receiving his sight. It was so unusual, and unexpected, that in his public reading of Isaiah 61, when Jesus introduced himself as the one whom the Spirit of the Lord had anointed, he added the phrase, “the recovering of sight to the blind.” Isaiah had not written that, but Jesus added it, because the blindness of man needed dealt with. Blindness, in more ways than one.
The exchange went something like this, “I have come into judgment so that those who are blind can be made to see, and those who can see will be made blind.” Jesus never actually took sight away from anyone during his ministry, so we assume the blindness and the sight is in a deeper, spiritual sense. Mankind had a sight problem; he couldn’t see clearly due to his reliance on conscience. I think it might go something like this: man can’t see clearly because he relies on how he feels.
Christ came to blind mankind to who he used to be; to his sin; to his failure; to his spiritual nakedness, but also to blind him to his ability to govern himself by conscience. He came to open our eyes to who we really are, whether we feel like it or not. He came to make us see through his eyes; to love through his eyes; to empathize through his eyes. We don’t see clearly, not because we are still fallen or have come short, but because we look at things through the way we are conditioned rather than through our new creation lenses.
So in a world of civil unrest, racial tensions, coronavirus lockdowns and tumbling economies, how do we see these things “clearly,” through our Tree of Life set of eyes? First, we need to recognize and remove the filters through which we have become so accustomed to viewing the world. Let’s not let everything devolve into the political. I have noticed that when you present a situation through a lens someone is unaccustomed to, they accuse you of representing their political opponents. Could this be because we see all other information than what we are accustomed to as coming from some perceived enemy? If we allow everything to be shaped by political ideology, we cannot possibly see through our new creation eyes.
Second, we should acknowledge other points of view and do everything in our power to genuinely try and see things precisely the opposite of the way our feelings tell us to. We may be no closer to an answer when we do this, but we will have at least done the hard working of wrestling an issue from both sides. And who knows, we might learn something of value, even if what we learn is the other side had nothing to teach us.
Finally, try and see the world the way Jesus did and the way Jesus does. When he saw the multitudes gathered, he was moved with compassion, for he saw them as sheep without a shepherd. I try to remind myself of this often: people are sheep without a shepherd. You can mock them for being a bunch of sheep – a bunch of blind followers, or you can try and be a good shepherd. Jesus saw the world clearly, unencumbered by the weight of consciousness, and mere emotion. In his clear world vision, he saw need, desperation, and opportunity.
It isn’t easy to see through new creation eyes, and to love the unlovable. When Paul spoke of love, and how it bears all things, believes all things, endures all things, and hopes all things, he concluded his poetic passage with an odd admission. We see through a glass darkly, knowing only in part. I think this comes at the end of a passage on love because seeing the world through the eyes of the perfect one isn’t natural. It’s unnatural, or better yet, its supernatural.
That leads me to true optimism for the last half of 2020. The first six months have been a disjointed chaotic mess. Maybe the prognosticators of 20/20 vision weren’t wrong after all. After this mess, we may very well see clearly, or at least as clearly as we have in a long time. I’m not sure what that looks like or how we look on the other side, but I’m quite certain that people will always be sheep, always need a shepherd, and we have the best one to draw from and to learn from. Father, give us your eyes, so we can share your heart.
Grace to you.