“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth.” Rev. 21:1
John did not live to see the literal fulfillment of this great promise, but he did seem possessed of a vision that sustained him even on a rocky island of exile called Patmos. The other prisoners on that island saw misery and isolation. The aging disciple saw an unconquerable God who would make all things right. Faith gave him new sight.
I like Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s line: “Earth’s crammed with heaven, and every bush afire with God.” The daily challenge for every Christian is to see what other people miss. We must cultivate our gift to see something every day that is grace-filled. The evidence of God’s grace surrounds us.
Helen Keller was blind and deaf from a very early age, but overcame those barriers and learned to communicate. She learned about the world around her and helped us to see things that we often overlook.
In an article entitled “Three Days to See,” she begins “I have often thought it would be a blessing if each human being were stricken blind and deaf for a few days at some time during his early adult life. Darkness would make him more appreciative of sight, silence would teach him the joy of sounds.”
She was prompted to write this article when a friend returned from a walk in the woods. “What did you observe?” Keller asked. “Nothing in particular.” Her friend responded. “How is it possible, she wondered, to walk in the woods and see nothing worthy of note? She went on to imagine what the budding trees of spring would look like and the appearance of different kinds of bark. She goes on to imagine what she would do if she were given three days to see.
She would spend the first day seeing the people whose companionship and kindness had made her life worth living. Keller was accustomed to sensing a person’s mood and qualities through the tips of her fingers. What an advantage she imagined she would have if she could see all the subtleties of expression.
On the second day she would rise with the dawn to see the thrilling miracle by which night is transformed into day. She would see as much of the world on that one day as possible. Art and nature and plays would be on her agenda.
On the third day she would get out into the city and see the faces of people as they went to work. She would un-focus her eyes for a while to see the kaleidoscope of color from the women’s dresses as they moved in the throng. She was certain that it must be a gorgeous spectacle.
She admits that her three day agenda may be different from yours, but she is quite sure that if we knew we would lose our sight tomorrow, then we would cherish every sight in those last few hours.
She concludes by encouraging us to use our eyes as if tomorrow we would be stricken blind. And the same method can be applied to other senses. Hear and smell and feel and taste as well as see the wonders of the world around you.
Use your faith the same way. Faith is a way to see the world and look at life. I am amazed by how often Christians, who should know better, miss this truth. We can get caught up in trifles and lose focus on the encompassing glory of God.
Joan Chittister, a modern Benedictine, wrote, “We are part of a holy universe, not its creators and not its rulers. God has done the creating, God does the judging, and God waits for us to realize that. . . . Finding God is a matter of living every minute of life to its ultimate.” (Rumors, p. 56-57) Ray Charles put it a bit more simply, “Live every day like it’s your last, ‘cause one day you’re gonna be right.”
Seeing the world faithfully does not require that level of intensity. Frankly, I doubt I can live each moment to the ultimate or live each day as if it is my last. I am content to live today, try to be faithful to God and kind to people around me. And if I live with that constant awareness of His presence, then I will see something each day that is grace-filled. At that point God will use you to share His grace with others.
Dr. Terry Ellis
March 25, 2012