~~I know I’ve mentioned before that I have bad eyes. That situation hasn’t improved with age. I hit 50 this year, an incomprehensible number when I attach it to myself. Considering the amount of reading I’ve done in those 50 years, it’s no wonder my eyes are tired.
I have a love / hate relationship with my Optometrist. In fact, I’ve been unfaithful. Last eye exam before my most recent was with an Ophthalmologist, who I was sure could be more helpful; would have some better technique than “Better or worse? Better or worse? Better or worse?” He didn’t. I was profoundly disappointed. I know that sounds an over statement, but really, I feel a disappointed hope when the results of these visits don’t provide any improvement in my ability to see clearly. That time I kind of threw in the towel and figured if that was as good as it was gonna get, well, so be it. It’s been over two years since I had an exam. With eyes like mine, that’s really not so good. I finally bit the bullet when I completely exhausted the tiny little dot in my progressives that allowed me to even attempt to read the written word, and I called my Optometrist and made an appointment.
Long story short, I ended up with a pair of lined bifocal work glasses which I’m still not sold on for the computer (struggle is real!) but which I love for reading a book. I also got a pair of lined trifocals in place of my progressives (which I have always hated). Let me tell you. It’s a brand new world. I nearly cried when I got home and could see my husband’s face, my son’s face. I knew before that I couldn’t clearly see them, or anyone else I was talking to, but I didn’t know how bad it had gotten.
When you begin wearing trifocals, your brain has to adjust more than your eyes. Your eyes just keep working like they always have but your brain has to learn new pathways that tell it to ignore those little lines that distort your vision as your eyes pass through them. One of the strange side effects then is that when you take the glasses off, your brain superimposes those lines on your eyes like little shadows. That’s what made me begin to think that what we set before our eyes has tremendous impact on our brain.
I’ve mulled this post for a while now, thinking that the application here is simple. In Psalm 101 David says, “I will set before my eyes no vile thing.” Pretty simple. When we set before our eyes vile things, or worthless things as the NASB states it, we begin to have vile thinking. I thought of TV, movies, books, video games…all the obvious applications. But then I was challenged (convicted) in my thinking about something way deeper than that and I realized that I’ve set a completely faulty pair of lenses before my eyes for so long that it has affected my eyesight and my thinking without my knowing it. Like being so blind that I didn’t know I couldn’t see.
This week, I’ve been especially exhausted with the world. I mean, it’s not hard to get discouraged. The news is bad enough, but you know, that’s over there. But then that meanness, that harshness, that anger and bitterness and hatefulness and violence creeps in to your own life and it starts to really wear on you. Social media is a playground for spite and vitriol, and when you see it, you know that this…this is what’s been hiding in the heart of man all along. This ugliness has always been there, it’s just gone unsaid until there was a platform to hide behind, and I’m beginning to feel that the deception is worse than the truth, although the truth is shockingly ugly. And I’m chief among those guilty of hiding ugly truth behind that socially acceptable false persona. It’s enough to make you want to chuck it all. Even now, Lord Jesus…
Here’s the thing. Two things. First, bad glasses give us bad eyesight, and the longer we wear them, the harder it gets to see clearly. Secondly, whatever we allow to remain unchallenged “before our eyes” imprints itself on our brain, until we not only see poorly, we think poorly. At some point, we need to take off the bad glasses and get some new ones that imprint some truth on our vision. That means we have to challenge our own thinking. We have to do the work of self-examination. We have to ask ourselves what we believe…I mean really truly believe…the ugly stuff… the stuff we wouldn’t even say on social media…and how we came to that conclusion, and whether that conclusion is right. We can't do that without trying on some new specs.
We all walk around in the world wearing a pair of lenses. We see the world through lenses of experience and outside influence. We see what we have trained our eyes to see; compensation for what is really there, the details washed out and diluted. If we had to defend our perspective, we would be poorly equipped to do so, because we have never examined the details of our perception. We just see what we see without ever asking ourselves whether we see it clearly. We are settled, content, in fact oblivious to our self-made reality. It looks right to us, and we assume that others see it the same, and if they don’t, well, obviously they aren’t seeing it right.
Here’s a little story to illustrate what I mean. When I was about four, we lived in St. Louis in the Tower Grove district (for you locals). One day when my mother, my sister, and I were walking through the park to get ice cream, we were mugged at knife-point by a young black man who threatened to cut up my mother unless she gave him her money. It created a lens for me that years of news media and family prejudice influenced and solidified. I see young black men through that lens. And I could continue to do that, justifying my poor vision with this very real experience, unless I challenge my perception with other experiences that tell me that I have poor vision here. You see?
Gays? Catholics? Mexicans? Republicans? Democrats? Muslims? Russians? Foster kids? Teenagers? Maybe experience and training has given your lenses a tint that you now see these people through. Is it going unchallenged? Are you seeing clearly? Are you willing to take off your glasses, try on a new pair, and see things differently? Has it even occurred to you that there is another way to see things?
Every time you set these acquired views before your eyes, you imprint that perception on your brain. Every teenager you meet then is silly, irresponsible, and irrational. Every cop, suspect. Every black man, a threat. Every Mexican, an illegal. Every Muslim, ISIS. Every person who sees through their own lenses and not yours…bad, stupid, wrong. I’m tired with it all. So very tired. Tired of seeing it in you. Tired of seeing it, especially, in me. It shocks me every time. How can we be so vile? How can we be so blind to it in ourselves? How did we get to be so entrenched and unwilling to see through different lenses – or at the very least, to let people see through their own, understanding that experience formed them? What on earth do we have to lose by seeing the other person and seeking to understand his view of the world? Why are we so threatened by the other person’s perspective? Why are we so determined to win?
Here is the one and only truth I know about every man: “There is not one righteous. Not even one.” That's the only lens I want to see through when I look in the mirror and when I look at the world.
I’m committed to seeing better. I’d rather be entirely, completely sightless than to have to keep seeing this, hearing this, and imprinting this blind defensive passive aggression on my own psyche. I have decided to “set before my eyes no vile thing”. That includes political rants, name-calling (Left, Right, Middle), thoughtlessly unkind and unbelievably disrespectful memes, unfounded and slanderous gossip, wild generalizations (mild generalizations!), photoshopped propoganda, general ugliness, and even divisive and unloving apologetics. If we wouldn’t say it to our enemy face to face and be ready to defend our perspective in respectful dialogue, committed to entertaining new ideas whether or not we adopt them, then I would suggest we examine our vision and admit that we are short-sighted and might need new glasses. Please, call me in for a vision screening if you believe I’m blind and don’t know that I can’t see.
"You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Matthew 5:43-48