We live in very complicated times. Our brains are bombarded by data, opinions, viewpoints and images.
The enormous volume of details and the various patterns of information tend to prevent us from just walking through life with a straight-ahead simplicity. But when I read the stories of Jesus’ life on earth, He so often comes across as walking in clear and simple vision.
That uncluttered view seems key to His stopping to help the “earthlings” with their problems.
Modern life is a screaming centrifuge; it spins us away from a quiet and peaceful center. I’ve so often noticed that many people are simply not here…in this moment. They are already into next week, or they are talking to someone in Tokyo, or teleconferencing or buried inside their Blackberry. But, they are not engaged in present reality.
Because of these factors, we are sometimes unable to really see the people and situations right in front of our eyes. Do you think it is possible to return to a way of life which would allow us to see again?
A Farm in France
In 1944, a Kansas, farm-raised pilot named Dale Dieterich flew his bomber across German-occupied France on a routine mission. Gazing at the farms passing below, he suddenly noticed a lone tree in the middle of a plowed field. Strangely, all the rows of plowed earth were straight. Anyone familiar with farming would know the tractor turns around the tree would produce a “bend” in the lines.
He nosed his bomber into a gentle dive and dropped a bomb on the tree. The terrific explosion revealed that Dieterich had blown up a camouflaged ammunition depot. The story was told in various publications at the time.
Obviously, there is seeing and then there is…seeing. The actual physical process of sight is only a small part of how we see. For Dale Dieterich, what he “saw” in the field below passed through the filters of his Kansas farm life experience. His knowledge of farming caused him to see the field in a way that a Brooklyn-born pilot probably would not have.
A botanist sees layers of veiled wonder in a leaf. A structural engineer perceives deep mysteries in a spider web. Have you ever wondered what a lawyer knows about you from the way you make eye contact, shake hands and sit?
Many years ago (in simpler times), a small town banker told me, “When a man asks me for a loan, I tell him I’ll get back to him. Then, I drive by his place; I can tell if he’s a good risk just by looking at his home and his land.” Do you think that banker may have seen the property differently than you would?
I often remind myself that what I see is extremely limited and myopic. Because of the limitations of my own “filters,” I simply do not see the whole story. If we could remember that, do you think we might listen and learn more and be a little slower to act or speak?
What do you see in your relationships?
A few months ago, I read the news story about Adnan and Sana Klaric’s marriage. This Bosnian couple had apparently hit some major disappointment in marriage. So, unbeknown to the other, they each sought relief by going online to indulge in a very secretive, but only “virtual,” affair. Soon, however, the river of their passion surged over the banks of cyberspace. Each agreed to meet his/her secret lover in person.
Incredibly, when Sana and Adnan arrived for their “date,” they found their mysterious amorous partner was . . . Adnan and Sana. Adnan said, “I still find it hard to believe that Sweetie (Sana’s online name), who wrote such wonderful things, is actually the same woman I married and who has not said a nice word to me for years.”
According to the report, they are divorcing.
Obviously, they didn’t see their online connection as a confirmation of what they originally saw in each other. The moment of their face-to-face meeting could have been a revelation; they could have seen that the one they each fell in love with was still “in there.”
Do you think the man or woman you first loved 10, 20, 30, 40 years ago could still be buried deep inside? Are the bundles of secrets and possibilities still shimmering below the surface? Do you remember the beautiful depths of laughter, intelligence, sensuality and spirit that first drew you to him or her?
Could you find the “new eyes” necessary for a journey of rediscovery? Does this also apply to the other family and friend relationships in your life?
How do you view your Health?
Most of us are probably too obsessive about our physical health. After all, our culture bombards us with sensual images of youth, steel muscles, perfect skin and voluptuous female forms.
But, there are deeper springs of real life.
The late former White House Press Secretary Tony Snow said, “Getting cancer was the best thing that ever happened to me.” He explained that it brought him closer to his wife and children and the preciousness of each day. I think Tony Snow could see more clearly than many of us do.
Much of what we see and value about physical wellbeing flows from our cultural images of health and beauty. But, do you think perhaps God sees human health in a different way? To Him, train wrecks, Alzheimer’s, disgrace, jail and even death can be display windows which reveal the sheer brilliance of His creativity, redemption, love and grace.
In his classic poem “If,” Rudyard Kipling wrote,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same…
So much of what we define as “success” or “failure” is an imposter. In the larger scope of life, the crises are generally what give us a better, fuller and even more interesting life. And, what we describe as “success” is very often just raging consumerism.
How do you see your environment?
We are all spiritual beings, living for a while on earth. So, I’m always fascinated by how people, institutions and communities relate to their actual earth space.
So, I found the story of Cornerstone Church in Simi Valley, Calif. to be riveting.
Like many churches, they filled up their existing space and made plans to expand. But, unlike many churches, their blueprints “include no foyer space or coffee bars, no windows or doors and no walls or roof.” They are building a massive outdoor amphitheater.
Incredibly, a church will be doing what Jesus did: preaching to thousands of people scattered over the ground.
How did they “see” that?
Today’s architectural and religious assumptions would naturally ignore the 2000-year-old pattern of Christ. We just assume we must have eye-catching design, future technologies and environmentally-safe and earthquake-resistant construction. But, here was a church which “saw” through the illusions and returned to a more pure and simple relationship to their space.
Their unique vision also extends to the poor. Because they are building in this way, they plan to invest heavily in the people and needs of their community.
Many scientists believe technology and stress are changing the way we walk through life. What if we unplugged from the “time savers” and “improvements?” What if we backed up, took a deep breath, and walked a little slower through life? Do you think we might begin to see with new eyes?
Next, let’s consider the way we see government and politics.
Ed Chinn is an organizational consultant and freelance writer from Fort Worth, Texas (firstname.lastname@example.org). His work has appeared in the Christian Science Monitor, the Washington Post, OpinionJournal.com, and the Fort Worth Star Telegram.
 Mark Bergin, “Sermons in the Sun,” World Magazine (July 26/August 2, 2008) p. 35