A life lesson was not what I was expecting that day.
It was a chilly morning in late winter and I was bundled up, walking in the woods near my parent’s home. Not a hint of spring anywhere. Bleak, really. A tree had fallen, and it made the perfect spot to stop and be alone with my thoughts.
That’s when I heard His voice:
“I am teaching you to see.”
My first thought was, “See what?”
At that time, I had just started wearing reading glasses but overall, I thought my vision was pretty good!
Of course, that wasn’t at all what He was getting at. He was talking about my propensity to always see things as bleak, just as I had perceived the woods that morning; He was talking about my focus.
It was the beginning of a joyful journey that continues to this day, a journey of praying to have His eyes to see and behold beauty in the small, the mundane, and the common. To search for treasure and to pay attention.
I don’t know why I was so blind, oblivious to what was staring me in the face: God is everywhere, so why should everything always look so bleak to me?
My husband didn’t struggle with this. When we took a walk together, I fixed my gaze straight ahead, the next block, the next street. He looked down. Or up.
Seek and ye shall find, it says, and he found all sorts of things. He delighted in discovering tiny insects in the cracks of the sidewalk or birds that I would never have noticed, hidden high in the trees. He was present and so he saw.
My dear friend, Janie is also a “see-er,” (I call her Magpie) always bringing home treasures from her walks. Granted, they may or may not have been special to others, but she saw hidden beauty and meaning in each object.
“Now I will teach you to see,” He said.
And He did. But I’m a slow learner.
Back when I was a freelance writer, I was assigned to write a piece about a home that had recently been purchased by the new president of one of the prominent banks in town. After touring the house, I emailed my editor, saying, “I couldn’t even begin to write about that house. There was absolutely nothing of interest. It was beige. The walls, the sofa, everything… even the wine was beige.”
I just couldn’t see what the big deal was about that house; couldn’t look past my own prejudice towards bold color, or perhaps, my intimidation of the owner’s wealth or my irritation at their lack of hospitality. It never occurred to me that the interview might have made them uncomfortable or that this particular house didn’t lend itself to the traditional, deeper-hued furnishings of their previous house in a more conservative city. Maybe their recent move was a painful one and the boring beige was a balm to the soul.
I couldn’t see.
But the Father, in His infinite kindness, stuck with me on that journey of walking me into the light, teaching me to see.
He started small, and I’ve written about it here, how in a desperate act to escape my depressing circumstances, I took what I call a gratitude walk. In that season, I couldn’t find much to be thankful for, so I started with memories, then began looking around as I walked; I mean, really looking. So much beauty. How had I missed it?
When your eyes are open, you can see beauty everywhere
It was around that time that my friend, Becky Burgue and I read Ann Voskamp’s book, One Thousand Gifts. I asked the Lord to help me see the gifts I was blind to and eventually followed Becky in posting my list each night on Facebook. Gradually things stopped looking so bleak. When I looked up, everything else started looking up, too.
When I became more present, everything began to look like a gift.
When I became more present, everything began to look like a gift. Click To Tweet
All because He taught me to see.
Mind you, it wasn’t as easy as it sounds. There were (are) still bleak days. Changing your focus is a choice, a move from self-pity to self-denial. At the time all this was happening, we had experienced a painful loss and my eyes were focused on it, blind to the good that might come from it.
That loss was all I could see.
Without His grace, I would still be sightless, groping in the dark, blathering on about the bleakness of my life.
Oh, how great His mercy! He anointed my eyes to see. The world doesn’t look bleak to me anymore, and on those beige days when it starts to feel that way, He colors it with His love.
My journey towards 20/20 vision continues and lately I’ve discovered a new way to put into practice what I’ve learned. A few months ago, I took up watercolors and while it has been a peaceful balm to my soul it is very challenging. My favorite technique is called “wet on wet,” where you first wet the paper and then add paint, resulting in a fluidity that is both delightful and maddening. For a beginner, it’s mostly maddening. Almost every painting ends up with a blob of color where there’s supposed to be white space. Arghh.
Unless you can see past the blob and look for the beauty. That cluster of leaves between the top two flowers below is a perfect example.
Not. Supposed. To. Be. There.
When the paint gets away from me, before trashing the whole thing, I stop and ask myself, “Might that blob be a leaf?” Okay, maybe purple leaves weren’t what I was going for, but then again, why not? Could that trail of red be turned into a stem? What if I look at it from another perspective? What if, rather than a failed painting, I could see it as practice? Perhaps I could trim off the boo-boo and turn it into a bookmark or note card? See it differently.
Sometimes I need to look at the big picture, and other times I need to narrow my focus in order to see.
This morning I babysat for my youngest granddaughter, Eleanor. Ever notice how children see differently than adults? I see weeds, (dandelions) but she sees pretty yellow flowers to give her mommy.
I see a bush that the landscapers butchered the last time they came. She sees tiny berries, hidden beneath the sheared-off branches, spends a joyful hour picking that bush clean, saying, “More!” after single berry she picks.
I want her “more” mindset! Here’s what I know for sure: the more I look, the more I see and the more I see, the more I want to see. Teach me to see, Lord! Open the eyes of my heart, I want to see You.
Like the songs says, I once was blind but now… now I see His goodness everywhere.