The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If, then, the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! Matthew 6:22-23
I’m not that fond of eye exams. Well they’re far better than being at the dentist, but I definitely don’t look forward to them. The regular vision test where you just cover one eye and read the letters is okay, but when we get to the part where you have to wait in agonizing silence for that annoying puff of air to be shot into your eye for the glaucoma test – now THAT is not my cup of tea. (And why does it scare me EVERY. TIME? I mean, I know it’s coming. Yet I still jump. Why IS that?)
Anyway, I’m thankful for the smart machines and doctors who help ensure the health of my natural eyes and vision. You know, I’ve discovered that it’s also extremely important to ensure our spiritual vision health. Odd maybe…well let me explain.
So Random House dictionary defines peripheral vision as “all that is visible to the eye outside the central area of focus.” Naturally, that is the way we see out of “the corner of our eye” as we sometimes say. It helps us see more than what’s directly in front of us, assists us with sensing danger and helps us maintain our balance.
Now, come back with me to the optometrist’s office. Another test they do is the one that measures our peripheral vision. (This one also annoys me, unfortunately). It’s the one where you rest your chin in that cold little plastic cup and peer through the machine at a plain white screen with a black X or dot. Then they give you this little remote with a button on it which you are to press when you see the squiggly lines pop up in some random place on the screen. So it ends up feeling like an angry game of Space Invaders, but it serves its purpose, I suppose.
In the natural sense, peripheral vision is pretty important! But when I consider the fact that we are called to fix our eyes upon Jesus while we run this race, why would I want peripheral vision in the spiritual sense? Don’t those dumb squiggly lines mess me up when I’m trying to focus on my goal? I don’t want to focus on anything but Him! Even when I really want to, it’s so hard sometimes to will myself to just fix my eyes on Him. I can’t deal with all these things in my peripheral vision. Well, not without the Light.
You see, in order to see with our natural eyes, we need light. It reflects off of an object and enters the eye. It’s focused, converted to electro-chemical signals which are then sent to the brain to be interpreted. (Do I remember all this from Anatomy class? No, my friend. And thank you, WebMD). 🙂 So along with our peripheral vision, we obviously have central vision as well. This is the vision that is focused straight ahead, not to the side. Light rays fall directly on the retina and forms our sharpest point of vision. So again – why would I be given peripheral vision when it just makes me stumble spiritually?
Well, there’s the fruit. You know – the garden, the serpent, and two greedy people with the gift of free will. Yeah, them. I’d say they introduced some pretty serious issues. Man was not called to sin – man called sin into the world. And here we are now, still, with the freedom to choose life or death. But you and I serve a God who reaches His hand down to us when we’re sinking, helps us up when we fall and shifts all that peripheral chaos into something good.
It’s okay to have peripheral vision. Sin, fear and distractions are not good things, obviously. But God takes every side step, every wound and every missed chance and uses it to shift our focus back to our central vision. If I never fell, I’d never understand the concept of rising up again. If I’d never sunk before, I’d never know the relief and peace of being pulled back to the surface to breathe again. And if I didn’t have the freedom to choose, I’d just be an insincere machine with no heart. Even the perfect and spotless One had the freedom to choose to be the Savior of the World or to save himself! We are not called to be robots, but instead, were given hearts and intellect and beautiful emotions that enable us to love – along with the choice to do so.
With our natural eye, we can look straight ahead yet still see 170 degrees around us. If we focused 45 degrees to the left or right, we’d probably either fall over something or start heading in that direction. Just because we can see what’s over there doesn’t mean we are to focus on it. When Peter took his first step onto the water, he was very much aware of the wind. Trust me – they were in the middle of a storm freaking out thinking they were going to die, so I’m pretty sure he knew about the torrent around them. But he took his first step while keenly focused on the Light. Although he was focused, he did not suddenly lose his ability to perceive what was around him. But he did not let his attention rest there in his peripheral vision. Similarly, when he diverted his attention away from Jesus, he did not lose the awareness that He was there. He sunk because his gave his attention to the storm surrounding him.
I haven’t lost the ability to recall my mistakes and failures. I still know I said the wrong thing last week, I can’t seem to get that one thing right and I am pretty sure I’ll mess something up again in the near future. Focusing on that stuff will either drag me backwards into a sea of guilt, make me sink into despair today or freak out about the storm that might happen tomorrow. It’s not the peripheral vision that causes me to stumble. It’s my choice to immerse myself in it and pay it my attention that causes the fall.
So we need our vision to be corrected. We need our spiritual eyes to be healthy so that we can focus on what we need to see. When our eyes are opened and we allow the Light to flow in, it will come into perfect focus and convert everything so that it can be interpreted into the beautiful image we were called to see. When the light within us is darkness, how great is that darkness! But when the light within us is full and bright, how incredibly marvelous is that?!
The human spirit is the lamp of the Lord that shines light on one’s inmost being. Proverbs 20:27
…let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith… Hebrews 12:1-2