For our time of staff prayer on Friday morning, we read Psalm 37: 1-24. It’s a beautiful Psalm of reassurance that God will act on behalf of his people, of those who are oppressed and downtrodden, and that God will not allow the wicked to prosper. Some translations tell the hearer, “Do not worry,” and other translations say, “Do not fret.” The Lord will act.
It’s beautiful . . . but it’s a bit hard to believe when every day the wicked are actually prospering and those who are oppressed are flung back into the dirt and trash heaps all around this world. Faith doesn’t come easily when there seems to be such a huge dichotomy between the promise of what is supposed to be and what is. Trust is sometimes hanging on by a thread.
God, I know it’s true because I know that the words you say are not false. There is nothing false or deceptive about you. I do believe you and I am trying to trust you. Give me eyes to see.
Today after church I was piddling around our kitchen, cleaning dishes, chopping vegetables, and making Ramen noodle soup (with an egg in it for protein). All the while, I was listening to a sermon by Pastor DeNeff, my pastor from my college years. The church in Marion is going through a series called Soul Shift. The overall theme is the need for us to relearn and rethink all that we have taken for granted in our Christian life. Today was about shifting our gaze from that which is seen to that which is unseen.
Most people who’ve sat in church long enough have heard a sermon about this topic, but there was a twist. When we talk about the unseen world and getting new eyes to see, maybe we have always assumed we understood and we were actually seeing unseen things. We’re at least aware there’s an unseen world and we believe in it. Isn’t that half of seeing? But what if what we thought as seeing the unseen was only like a blind man envisioning what a sighted man was describing but never really seeing for himself? Maybe that’s the best vision we have, and maybe we think that is exactly what God meant by seeing (because we’ve never seen any better).
But what if there’s more?
What if seeing the unseen is like looking at our skin with our naked eye and then putting our skin under the most high-powered microscope available? We thought we knew what our skin looked like, and we’ve even had people tell us bacteria lives on our skin. We know there are pores. We can envision all this in our mind: the bacteria, the pores, the hair follicles, the layers of skin, etc. But envisioning it in the mind is nothing compared to actually seeing it through a microscope. There’s a whole different world there we never knew existed . . . even though we were told about it and had a mental picture!
So what if that is how I am seeing this scripture passage? What if that’s how I am seeing the kingdom of God? I have an idea and a picture of what God’s kingdom and justice and peace look like. I can envision it, but what I envision from what I have grown up understanding about these concepts is nothing like what I see in the world around me. And this is what is causing the dissonance in my heart. None of what this passage of scripture is saying is coming true. Maybe tiny glimpses of these promises flit before my eyes for a second, but it doesn’t last. Then my hope and faith struggle to hold on.
What if what Pastor DeNeff shared today was true? What if what I think of as seeing the unseen in the world around me everyday is only word pictures in my mind rather than the real thing? That would explain a lot of discrepancies.
“For now we see in part. Then we will see fully.” Can I believe this? Lord, will you open my eyes now so that I can actually see what is unseen—not just word pictures?
Blind Bartimaeus, when asked by Jesus what he wanted, asked for way more than he was conditioned to ask for. As Pastor DeNeff pointed out, his entire life Bartimaeus asked for what he thought he could get from people: food, money. But when Jesus asked him, apparently Blind Bartimaeus knew that Jesus could give him a lot more than just food or money. He asked for the impossible; he asked to see.
Am I so conditioned to this world that I don’t even consider asking Jesus for what he really can give me—what he really wants to give me?
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner: I want to see.