Seeing with the eyes of the heart

Glenn L. Schwanke

Before the opening hymn, I wondered, “What happened to our hymn boards? The white hymn numbers shimmer against the black backgrounds. Did one of the electrical engineering students in our Campus Ministry figure out a way to backlight the numbers?”

A split second after those thoughts flitted through my mind, I knew the hymn boards hadn’t changed. My eyesight had. After cataract surgery, my vision was no longer clouded over by the yellowed-haze that had developed on my 60+ year-old lenses, almost like fog and grime on a windshield. Instead, with new lens implants in each eye, I was finally seeing white again. Colors jumped out at me in a way I hadn’t experienced since I was in the third grade.

That was when I couldn’t read the blackboard in our classroom. I always had my nose in the book, not because I was exceptionally studious, but because I struggled to read the print. But after getting my first pair of glasses, I walked out from the optometrist’s office onto the sidewalk to bask in the brilliant sunshine that flooded South 8th Street in downtown Manitowoc, Wisconsin. There I stood. Looking one way. Then the other. The colors took my breath away! Reds, blues, and yes, whites leaped at me like never before—almost as if I could reach out and touch them.

Cataract surgery for us older folks, or a pair of glasses or contacts for the younger generations, can make a night-to-day difference to our eyesight!

But there’s another type of clear vision that’s far more important. The apostle Paul tells us about it in his letter to the Ephesians: “I keep praying that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, will give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in knowing Christ fully. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you may know the hope to which he has called you, just how rich his glorious inheritance among the saints is, and just how surpassingly great his power is for us who believe” (Ephesians 1:17-19 Evangelical Heritage Version [EHV]).

Paul prayed that “the eyes of your heart may be enlightened,” because he knew how life’s struggles can fog our spiritual sight. Endless chemo or radiation therapy, a stroke that leaves us debilitated just as we were taking our first steps into retirement—all these things and more can jaundice our outlook on life. A failed marriage or the sudden, unexpected death of a child can so darken the mirror of our soul that we may even lash out in anger against our God.

How can our spiritual cataracts be removed? Only by God’s Spirit who performs surgery deep inside us with his sharp, double-edged sword, “the word of God” (Hebrews 4:12; Ephesians 6:17). Through that Word, the Spirit brightens our outlook on life by riveting our attention on Jesus and enlightening us with the trust to see Jesus for who he really is. Jesus is the one who made you and me brighter than the white numbers on the hymn board.

Well, that’s the way I see it, and I think the prophet Isaiah would agree with me, although he used a different picture for purity. He wrote, “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow” (Isaiah 1:18). Because of the crimson blood Jesus shed on his cross, our sins are buried. When our Father looks at us, he sees nothing but shimmering, blinding white.

For you see, everything looks different when viewed through the lens that is Christ.


Contributing editor Glenn Schwanke, pastor at Peace, Houghton, Michigan, also serves as campus pastor at Michigan Technological University.


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Author: Glenn L. Schwanke
Volume 105, Number 3
Issue: March 2018

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