Vision has always been an issue for me. For as long as I can remember, I have had strong glasses and “issues” with my physical sight. My parents first had me tested when I was sitting inches away from the television. I remember wearing prisms on my glasses because I had a “lazy” eye; but just the magnification required in my prescription is obvious and has been since I was very young. I suppose it’s just part of my identity. My nickname was “blind man” in high school—I don’t remember resenting it necessarily; although, I did get contacts as soon as I possibly could.
The Bible has a lot to say about vision. One common theme is the idea that we can have eyes but not really see. Man, I can relate to that! I couldn’t tell you scientifically why my physical eyes don’t work so well without correction. According to Jesus, the eyes that see God are connected to the purity of our heart.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God (Matthew 5:8)
Jesus also said that a hardened heart contributes to this condition of having eyes that don’t see (Mark 8:17). I’ve always been sure that I didn’t want to have a hardened heart, but what are the things that lead us there? What hardens our hearts? What keeps us from seeing?
My heart is often hardened by selfishness. “What’s in it for me?” “When do I get my chance?” “I deserve (whatever I decide is best for this particular moment).” Selfishness centers on what I think I deserve and what I have a right to. It leads me away from the great commandment and the Golden Rule. It devastates intimacy with God and replaces it with a kind of self-appeasement (I wouldn’t even call it nurturing because, in the end, it’s not that good for me).
My heart is also hardened by judgmentalism. Someday, I hope this isn’t on my list—but today and yesterday, and the day before I struggled with this unholy, unnecessary, unfruitful practice that does nothing but harden my heart, destroy my witness and cloud my ability to see God in every situation. Maybe it’s where I start. In my mind, I want to notice those things that are askew and bring attention to them. But maybe, like Paul, I need to pray that I will see with the eyes of my heart (Ephesians 1:18) instead of just my ocular senses and my judgmental reasoning.
My heart may also be hardened by busyness. I’m challenged to live a more quiet and contemplative life, but I’m also excited by a life of activity. This is certainly a balance between productivity, accomplishment, sincerity, purpose, and soul care (and probably a dozen other things). I’m challenged to imagine a life that is led by what my heart knows is right instead of what excited me most recently. I think this would be something like seeing more clearly.
When David said, “Create in me a clean heart,” he was using the same language as Jesus. David sensed that he couldn’t change his behavior until he changed what he saw and somehow was able to understand that seeing begins with the heart. He needed to be pure in heart to see God. Brian Zahnd, in Beauty Will Save the World, describes this as “clean windows in their soul.” I long for this clear vision in my heart much like I long to have 20/20 vision in my eyes.
You see, when our hearts are pure, we see God not just eventually, but presently. When our hearts are pure, we see God first in ourselves. Recognizing God’s leading and teaching and correction in our lives becomes a reality, not just a hope. Stripped of our self-interest, we see how God wants to interact with us much like the Father, Son and Spirit exist in perfect harmony. A pure heart guides us to better awareness and stronger vision of God’s activity in and around us.
Seeing God in ourselves is important. Seeing God in others is probably life-changing. A pure heart helps us consider the needs, motivation and struggles of others before we rush to make judgments and pronounce verdicts. In fact, when our hearts are pure, we can give up the need to change people and understand that God can and will change their lives. Oh, that we could be pure in heart enough to see through the eyes of Jesus—eyes of compassion—eyes of love—eyes of grace!
So, we see God in ourselves and in others—what is left? Oh, just everything else, right? When we are pure in heart, we also see the rest of the world—we see God in creation. In our modern world, it’s easy to ignore that God formed us from the dust of the ground and He is intimately involved in creation. The pure in heart see that God is interested in the care and comfort of everything He created. Ever thing that we have categorized as “resources” were handcrafted by God. They are not just to be “used” they are to be cared for. A pure heart can see this! It sees God in creation.
For years, pastors have admonished us to change what we look at. There is obviously some truth to this. We should guard our hearts and, to some degree, measure what we see. But, most likely what is most important is to change how we see what we look at. We can’t change those things by judging or condemning them and we can’t always avoid them. We need new vision to see things differently! We need vision that can see God in every circumstance! New vision—vision that sees God–comes from a pure heart!