“Look at that picture wayyyy down the hallway. What do you see?” the bald man with tinted pink glasses asked me. I thought he was nuts.
“Umm…nothing? White? Am I supposed to be seeing something?” I was unaccustomed to not having the answer. He instructed me to close my eyes. I looked to my mom, who nodded reassuringly.
He slid my brand new Nike glasses onto my face and told me to open my eyes.
A cow. It was a cow. How did I miss that? How did a giant technicolor bovine appear where before had surely been blank? Hadn’t I spent the first 10 years of my life learning to trust my eyes?
I had a new lens, and the way I saw the world changed forever.
Fourteen years ago today, I turned double digits, the big 1-0. The glasses were a part of my birthday present (a chemistry set was the rest, because NERD ALERT if you cant tell from the picture…).
This year too, for my 24th birthday, I received the gift of a lens. It too is changing the way I see the world forever. It doesn’t leave a funny mark on my nose or fog up in the winter, but instead leaves a mark on my heart and dissipates the fog of my mind.
We each see the world through a unique lens. We know this to be true:
“One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”
“Is the glass half-empty or half-full?”
“The grass is always greener on the other side.”
Each soul’s lens is comprised of genetics and experience, with some scratches and smudges from life along the way.
“The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. – Matthew 6:22, NASB
Scholars have argued over the meaning of Jesus’ words here for centuries. But for me, His point is simple. Put on My lens, and your life will be filled with light.
The truth is, sometimes we want to look away. We just can’t bear to look on all the pain, suffering, and brokenness that surrounds us. So we turn a blind eye. Or we fix our eyes on ourselves, hoping to find healing from within. Or we put on a polarizing filter, dividing the world into “us” and “them,” convinced that eliminating the “them” will be far more pleasant to gaze upon.
But then the pain comes. And this time it’s too close for the near-sighted lens to filter out. It comes in many forms: loss, illness, rejection, disappointment, but it will come. And your lens will make all the difference in the world.
This fall, The Gray crossed my horizon at lightspeed and stared me straight in the face. It is blurry and elusive. On a doctor’s report from October, no word is used more than “unclear.” I desperately wanted to see it clearly, to put a face and a name to this struggle, then unleash all my problem-solving energy to overcoming it and moving forward with my life the way it had been before.
But that was not the plan, and God made that clear.
It may seem obvious that when you are sick, you should pray for healing. But I did not pray for healing for the first month of this illness. Because that wasn’t what God had for me. No, He had a new lens instead.
From His infinite wisdom and severe mercy flowed the blessing of suffering.
During this time, He led me to a few very specific verses to edify my spirit and make His will for me clear:
“We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.
We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.” – 2 Corinthians 4:7-10 NLT
By God’s grace, I changed my lens. I had not even been aware that my lens was faulty, because I had been looking through it for so long.
I had to wake up every day in pain to see that not everyone wakes up feeling well.
I had to struggle with an invisible illness to have compassion on someone whose appearance doesn’t justify their actions.
I had to experience a dulled brain to understand the difficulty of those whose minds lag behind their spirits.
I had to say “I can’t” to humble myself from the pride of achievement and perfectionism that had plagued my life.
I had to let my identity be stripped away to see what was really underneath.
Where I had once perceived injustice, I now saw mercy.
Where fear had stared me down, faith now stood.
What seemed like abandonment, was replaced with embrace.
“That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.” – 2 Corinthians 4:16-18
It is simple to say, and takes a lifetime to accomplish:
Choose faith. Choose gratitude. Choose joy.
So today, on my birthday, I am reflecting back over my 23rd year. And in God’s currency, I see that my past 3 months were the most valuable of all. But the offering and taking up of this new lens did not happen by chance.
I had been letting God check my eyes all along. As I trace back in my mind’s eye to the start of this year, I see His intentional treatment method:
He filled my mind to the brim with the Word, the Scriptures I would cling to when my body was at its weakest.
He surrounded me with loving, caring, compassionate friends who have proven their love and loyalty in this season and continually pointed me back to Him.
He beckoned me downstairs before dawn, morning after morning, to meditate on His presence and He revealed Himself to me.
He brought us to a church that would be fervent in prayer for us, an invaluable lifeline.
He cleaned my lens and made His will for my life clear.
No, I have no idea what my next year or even 6 weeks will look like. But it is and always has been perfectly clear.
I choose HIM. And it changes the way I see everything. I no longer need to see where this journey is going, I only need to see one step at a time, day by day. I do this by:
“fixing [my] eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” – Hebrews 12:2
How would you describe your lens? What has contributed to it? I would love to hear from you in the comments!
Shine on, beloveds.