In a scene from N. Richard Nash’s play called The Rainmaker, two people have a conversation in a rural area during the drought-stricken Great Depression. Starbuck, the dreamer of dreams that almost never come true, complains to Lizzy about a world in which reality falls far short of anyone’s vision.
Starbuck: “Nothing’s as pretty in your hands as it was in your head. There ain’t no world near as good as the world I got up here (angrily tapping his forehead.) Why?”
Lizzy: “I don’t know. Maybe it’s because you don’t take time to see it — always on the go– here, there, nowhere. Running away, keeping your own company. Maybe if you’d keep company with the world…”
Starbuck: (doubtfully) “I’d learn to love it?”
Lizzy: “You might, if you saw it real. Some nights I’m in the kitchen washing the dishes, and Pop’s playing poker with the boys. Well, I’ll watch him real close. And at first I’ll just see an ordinary, middle-aged man, not very interesting to look at and then, minute-by-minute, I’ll see little things I never saw in him before. Good things and bad things – weird little habits I never noticed he had — and ways of talking I never paid any mind to. And suddenly I know who he is, and I love him so much I could cry! And I want to thank God I took the time to see him real.”
I believe one of the most pressing needs we have as humans is to “see one another real.” We are always more than we appear, always more than we even suspect. Occasionally when I am in a hurry to go from one appointment or visit to another, someone says something or offers a gesture that tells me there is far more to that person than I ever imagined. And after that discovery I leave wondering how much I have missed in others because I would not take time to “see others real.”
As Christians I believe we are called to a life-long process of conversion. Conversion is not something that happens to us just one time like a case of the chicken pox. Conversion in large part means to see the world as God sees it, to hear it as God hears it, and to love it as God loves it. And all that takes more than a lifetime to accomplish. Daily conversion is as necessary for the Christian as breathing air, drinking water, and eating food.
A part of this conversion process is to see ourselves and our world as we really are. Now this call to a converted vision is not just an attempt to have us air our dirty laundry and to become preoccupied with our sin and failure. If conversion involves seeing ourselves through Heaven’s eyes, then we must never forget that to God we are precious and God expects us to soar to heights greater than we or any other can dare to imagine.
Let me ask you this question. How do you feel God sees you? (Not how you think God sees you but how you feel God sees you. There is a profound difference between thinking and feeling.) As a sinner? A failure? And nobody? A has been? A never will be? A pain in Heaven’s posterior? A misfit? A mistake? Just not up to snuff?
No matter how hard we try, I believe all of us sometimes harbor these feelings. And perhaps those of us who have been raised in the church have more trouble with this than those who have recently come into the faith. We have so much useless if not harmful baggage to discard if we are ever to live as God’s joyful and free children.
One of the main objectives of Jesus was to help people realize how God sees them. Read Luke 15 which relates the parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost boy. Consider how Jesus loved and included so many around him who were excluded by the religious and cultural biases of the day—lepers, women, children, the poor, sinners, tax collectors who were view as both traitors and apostates, prostitutes.
In our passage for today, Paul says that in light of the Christ event – in light of the revelation of God’s unconditional, indiscriminate, everlasting, and sacrificial love for this world and every part of it, from now on we regard no one from a human point of view. In other words, we now must see the world and ourselves through the eyes of God. And I believe such Divine Vision involves at least three dimensions:
- As Creator, God has made us each of us unique. We come into this world with a one-of-a-kind genetic makeup. No one exactly like any of us has ever walked this earth or ever will. God seems to love variety having created different races, two genders, different sexual orientations, all shapes and sizes, all shades of color, all types of personality, so many different talents and interests. The diversity which often frightens and bewilders us seems to be a part of God’s plan for creation. Our tendency as uptight, fearful human beings is to see people and groups through stereotypical and judgmental lenses which almost always results in a “them versus us” mentality. But once we see our brothers and sisters on this planet as a part of a good creation and as unique expressions of the image of God, we discover how much we tend to violate their personhood and how much we have blasphemed God’s role as Creator. We must begin by seeing our world and each other through our Creator’s eyes.
- We must see each other through the eyes of God the Savior – through the lens of the Cross. We are so precious to God that God was willing to come in Christ and dwell in solidarity with every part of creation. The parables of Luke 15 demonstrate that such love would have been offered even for one person. Not only are we uniquely valued as a part of God’s wonderful and diverse creation– we are valued as the object of God’s unconditional, indiscriminate, everlasting and sacrificial love. Christ came not just for the good, not just for the average, and not just for the so-so. God in Christ came for every man, woman, and child on the face of this earth and that love endows each and every person with inestimable worth.
- We must see each other through the eyes of God the Consummator. God see us not just in terms of our past or present – not just in terms of our failures and successes, but in terms of who we shall become in the likeness of Jesus. In one of my favorite passages of scripture, John says “Beloved, we are God’s children now. What we will be has not yet been revealed. What we know is this: when he is revealed we will be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” (I John 3:2) The goal of God is for each of us in our own uniqueness to be like Jesus. Imagine a world of such splendor and variety with each person demonstrating in his or her own way the love, compassion, and courage of Jesus! That is God’s goal. And so God sees us as we shall be in the image of Jesus.
I think God uses a “reverse telescope.” When we look at the stars at night, we are not seeing them as they currently are. We are seeing them as they were so many light years ago. A light year is a measure of length, not time. It is the distance light travels for one year in a vacuum. The speed of light is 186,000 miles per second (faster than “the little old lady from Pasadena”). The most distant object we can see with the naked eye is the Andromeda Galaxy. This galaxy is 2.5 million light years from earth. That means it would take 2.5 million years for light from the Andromeda Galaxy to reach our planet. So what we see when we look at the Andromeda Galaxy is what it was like 2.5 million years ago and not the way it is right now. Perhaps God sees us with a “reverse telescope” where everything is seen as it will be in the distant future. I suggest our Creator takes note of our potential and “sees” us as we shall become, not just as we are or were. That gives me hope for those persons who seem so clueless when it comes to the love, justice, and compassion of God. And who am I kidding—it also gives me hope for all the broken and distorted parts of myself. Because of God’s unlimited grace and our unlimited potential, God will love us—all of us—into our healing and redemption.
Because we live on this side of the Cross, we dare not look at ourselves or anyone else with vision untouched by the good news of Jesus Christ. Through the lens of faith and redemption we can take the time to see the world real. And through the eyes of God we may discover in ourselves and others treasures in earthen vessels which serve as harbingers of God’s New Creation. In other words, in this case seeing is believing.