Our reading from Ephesians included a curious phrase referring to opening the eyes of your heart. Now interestingly, retinal blood vessels at the back of the eye are affected by the heart. Opticians sometimes are able spot things that suggest the need for cardiac investigation. I think we can be confident though that this phrase isn’t derived from Paul’s surprising sophisticated understanding of physiology. It makes no sense whatever to insist that scripture always be taken literally. But what then does it mean to open the eyes of your heart?
Paul points to a sharp contrast between that which we can see with our eyes as we make sense of the world around us and that which cannot be seen, which is spiritual and comes from that place of prayerful reflection within in the light of our reading of scripture and the spirits promptings.
In his first letter to the Corinthians Paul says of the Christian community – “we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal”.
In my own spiritual development, I have certainly noticed this growing awareness of things not seen. We all understand that we do not see all there is and that there is a reality behind that which is visible to the eye. We can guess and often have impressions of other’s moods and reactions to things but we can’t know them. We are all limited by our senses. Some more than others of course. This applies to matters of the spirit as well.
It’s not the case of course that paying attention to those things we see around us isn’t important. Indeed, if you’re anything like me perhaps you spend rather too much time ruminating on past events or worrying about the future. It’s a constant work for me to be more present both in this moment, in this temporal reality, and in God’s eternity rather than revisiting some happening last week of planning for something next. Sitting in silent contemplation before God might appears to be a limiting of our experience. It’s actually an invitation to breadth beyond that which we can otherwise know.
We understand, but don’t always behave, as if our time in this world is limited. Traditionally Christians were encouraged to reflect on their death. The benefits of that practice concern not only help to take less of what we have for granted but also to become more in tune with the eternal reality which has been won for us in Christ.
There’s a story about a revered Buddhist monk that I recall being very taken with during my explorations of those traditions. One of his students noted that he had a favourite cup. The student challenges his master as this appeared to contradict one of the central tenants of Buddhist teaching – nonattachment. “You’re not supposed to be attached” he says, to which the monk relies “Ah, but I know the cup is already broken.”
There’s an important realisation here and it can be applied to our lives as well as to our possessions. We can embrace a more eternal perspective on our world. The implications are profound. We will all recognise this to some extent I think. Loved ones now past are not dead to us, our love lives still. To some that isn’t real, love is not real, just some faulty projection of our brain’s neutral activity. I believe that’s mistaken. We proclaim that God is eternal and that God is love. We can say also then that Love is eternal and when we live in in love we live in God. We who are baptised into the body of Christ have already died and risen in Christ. It is from that understand that we can achieve proper perspective in our lives. Having that perspective can mean the difference between panic and peace, defeat and victory, confusion and clarity.
Paul wrote – “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as thy mighty strength”.
Do we each know the hope to which God is calling us? Do we know the glorious inheritance in his holy people and the incomparable power that he promises?
When we are tempted to look down on ourselves or feel that the Lord has forgotten or forsaken us, let’s remember that we are loved and valued. When we look at our circumstances and feel them too great to be overcome let’s remember God’s power that Paul tells us is the same mighty strength that raised Christ from the dead.
When we allow the Lord to open eye of our hearts, we gain sight of that reality beyond what is apparent to us. We begin to see who God is and what he has done and is doing in our lives, in the lives of those we love, in our world and in eternity. It is in that eternity that we may find the fullness of life to which we are called.
Thanks be to God.