Eye exams have been a part of my life since I was about five years old due to a condition commonly known as lazy eye. Other than the fact that my dad suffers from the same condition, I don’t remember many details around how my parents figured out I was having trouble seeing. When our daughter was only eighteen months old, she began exhibiting symptoms of lazy eye. We acted promptly on our suspicions and our toddler was taken to an eye specialist for children who confirmed the condition. Being a toddler, we weren’t sure how we would be able to ever keep her from yanking her glasses off at will, but something amazing happened as she sat on the counter at the optician’s office and I will never forget that moment the tiny glasses were slipped on her face. Her eyes opened wide and her face lit up as if she was actually seeing things clearly for the first time. Through the years, although we’ve visited multiple optometrists for eye exams, the one part of any exam that has been constant regardless of what office we visited is the large bulky, machine with multiple dials housing various combinations of lenses for each eye. Anyone who has ever occupied one of the eye doctor’s exam chairs is very familiar with the ensuing, nearly one-sided dialogue that follows: “Which is better: 1 or 2 . . . this is 1 . . . this is 2 . . . okay, is this better or worse . . . how about now . . . better or worse . . . option 1 . . . option 2 . . .” So it goes, on and on, until the doc is convinced the absolute best combination of lenses has been selected to provide you with as clear of vision as possible.
I had the privilege recently of reuniting with a couple of old friends and fellow journeyers and one idea that kept coming up was that of what lens people view others through. For the three of us, that lens and our vision has changed quite drastically since the last time we had actually sat together, and, although each of our journeys have been different, the common thread that seemed to unite us all was that we were on a journey of questioning and seeing life through a different lens. The beauty of our journeys lies in the fact that we have all now realized what we once not only thought, but also fought and staunchly defended, as a clear vision and view of the world was truly distorted and cloudy at best. In our each of our journeys, it was if we were that toddler on the counter whose eyes open wider and wider as we begin to see things for the first time.
Although it would take nearly twenty more years for my world view to fully change, one memory forever burned in my mind is from when I was nineteen years old. I can remember exactly where I was standing, next to the pallet shelving in the warehouse, as my boss and mentor Tom looked at me and said, “Rock, you believe the way you do because of how you were raised. What would your life be like if you were born in another country and would not have been raised in a Christian home? Not everyone sees things the way you see them.” I didn’t fully grasp it at the time, but looking back I have no doubt that comment was the first chink in the foundation of my churchboy vision and perception of the world. (For more on Tom’s influence on my life, see Time to Dance.)
I Corinthians 13:12 states it like this from the New Living Translation:
Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror . . .
I’ve heard that verse most of my churchboy life, but it is normally used to rationalize and comfort us during the uncertainties of life. The remainder of the verse goes on to say “but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.” When we use the verse in that manner, I believe we miss the true intent of it. In fact. it was in preparing to put these thoughts in writing that I fully saw the verse in a new way. This scripture, although quite well-known, is not nearly as well known as the words that immediately follows it and I cannot recall ever hearing the two verses stated together! I Corinthians 13:13 simply says:
Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.
It’s all about love. We must view others in love. Love must be the lens we see things through. Using verse 12 to simply imply, “Oh, there are things we will never know here, but we will understand it better in the by and by,” lets us off the hook and allows us to remain and wallow in our ignorance. That sentiment removes the glasses of love from our eyes and allows us to remain with blurred vision. Until we choose to look through the lens of love, we will continue to see things imperfectly, or as the King James Version reads, see things dimly. Seeing things dimly and imperfectly means you are concentrating on others’ flaws and imperfection. Looking through the lens of love allows me to be patient and kind, and to not be jealous or boastful or proud or rude. Love allows me to not demand my own way, to not be irritable, and not keep record of being wronged. Love causes me to never give up, never lose faith, and always be hopeful, enduring every circumstance. However, choosing to see through love does not immediately alleviate the second half of verse 12. There will still be times we don’t see with perfect clarity. There will remain to be things we don’t know and may never know, but we can’t allow those things to keep us from love.
The longer I live, the more I realize life is not about us all seeing things the same way. Life is not about seeing things as better or worse. Life is about seeing things through love.