It was sometime in the fourth grade that my ten-year-old nose found itself cohabitating with a pair of spectacles. At least that’s the year they started showing up in school pictures, little pink cat eyes that made me look perpetually shell-shocked. I hated wearing them, so finally in high school vanity prevailed over common sense. The glasses were banished to a dresser drawer even though I was extremely near-sighted.
Not surprisingly, the beauty quotient was negatively impacted by an inability to make meaningful eye contact with cute guys. (Or anyone, for that matter.) I never realized that the opposite sex was misinterpreting my major myopia as a lack of interest. Fortunately in college I stopped living in denial of perpetual F’s on eye exams and started wearing glasses again. (Which remarkably, was followed by dates. Go figure.)
Later, eye surgery gave me the freedom to go prescription-free; it was incredible to wake up in the morning able to read the alarm clock! Ironically, eight years later my eyes started to change again. If you’re over forty you know what I mean. And that eventually took me back to square one and glasses 24/7. This reluctant dance with glasses parallels my often-clumsy waltz with God. As a young child I learned that Jesus died on the cross because He so loved the world, and that I had to accept Him into my heart to go to heaven. But I don’t recall experiencing a profound and abiding sense of God’s unconditional love. I do remember the need to obey a list of do’s and (mostly) don’ts that spelled out what it took to have a good Christian testimony and please God. And I’ll never forget the countless moments of panic when I was sure the Rapture had taken everyone I loved to heaven and I’d been left behind.
Now there were times when I felt God cared. Like when I needed a clear answer about whether or not to move to Nashville. No, it was not to be a country music singer. And without a nearly audible Heads up, Barbara! I might have passed on the opportunity to spend the rest of my life with a really amazing man. God’s extravagant love was also undeniably present in the gift of becoming a mother to our girls. But there have been longer stretches of time where God was far away and unknowable – hopelessly out of reach. God was just so… invisible.
2010 was a year where the pendulum swung wildly between apathy and desolation. In hindsight it was probably God’s doing, stripping away layers of religious junk that had built up over decades, but at the time I thought it was me throwing God and the Bible away. I quickly figured out there was no way to put the process into reverse and on top of that, couldn’t talk to anyone about my angst. I felt so isolated. And then something wonderful happened. I began to realize that I wasn’t alone! There were others, friends whom I respected and admired, who had started to ask questions too, and they were finding that God was not less than they had spent a lifetime believing, but more. You cannot imagine the relief (and hope) that came with this discovery.
Why do we resist facing the hard spiritual questions? Many of us have silently wondered about them for years. Are we afraid that putting on a new pair of glasses, looking at things from a different angle will threaten the very essence of our faith? So what? Maybe God is bigger than the box we’ve confined God to. Could God’s love be Bigger… Wider… Deeper… Stronger?
Perhaps we’re afraid that if we start seeing things differently it will suggest that God has changed, that the ground has shifted beneath our feet and that truth and certainty are only figments of our imagination. That, if what we believed was a given, isn’t – then what or who can we trust? But here’s the thing. Putting on a new pair of glasses doesn’t mean the scenery has changed. In fact, the landscape itself hasn’t changed at all. Perhaps we’ve been seeing “through a glass darkly,” and what was actually there all along has just come into focus.
It’s like when our daughter was nine and the teacher noticed her struggling to read the blackboard at school. A note was sent home, we made an appointment for the eye doctor and found out she was way overdue for glasses. Cute frames were picked out and prescription lenses ordered. The afternoon she put them on for the first time, she kept staring out the window, totally amazed with how many leaves there were on the trees! Now, nothing about the scenery changed when she got her glasses. The leaves on the trees were always there. There were always thousands of them and they were always vivid shades of moss, viridian, clover and Packers green. But until her vision was corrected, she had only seen one big fuzzy blur of greenish something. She didn’t realize there was more to be experienced.
Emily could have resisted her need for glasses. She might have chosen the safety of the familiar and navigated the rest of her life continuing to believe that the canopy of leaves was meant to be undefined. Instead, she embraced the opportunity to see life with new eyes. Each day, we are invited to do the same – even if it means that we are pushed out of our comfort zone to reevaluate long-venerated belief systems. Looking for answers – and finding them – doesn’t mean that God has changed, only that God is infinitely discoverable. If you are open, you can become aware of the Truth resonating down deep inside you. Even now, the Universe waits patiently to welcome you into a lifetime of uncovering God’s immeasurable, inexhaustible and unconditional love.