I distinctly remember the first time I put on glasses and saw the world clearly. I was six years old.
I have really poor eyesight. Of course, I didn’t realize how poor it was until I put on glasses. I don’t remember having a hard time seeing. I don’t remember missing anything.
I assumed my mother took me to get my eyes examined because that’s what you did as a first grader. I thought it was the coolest thing: the letters on the wall, the flipping lens and all the fun little tests that seem to be designed just for children (“Can you see the hot air balloon?” “What number do you see in the colored dots?”).
Of course, I lived in rural Alabama, too, so it didn’t take much to entertain me. We only got five channels on the television!
Anyway, I remember being soooo excited when the optometrist said I needed glasses. How exciting! (thought my six year old self).
I got to pick out frames and even a cute little decoration to put on the lenses. I guess that was cool back then. The 10-day wait for the glasses to come in seemed to take for-ev-er. I begged my mom to call the doctor’s office every day to see if they had come in. Finally, they arrived!
When we went to pick them up I could barely contain my excitement. Would I get a glasses case? How would they look? Would I get dizzy when I put them on? (I had been warned about this as a possible side effect.) What actually happened was not what I was expecting. At all.
I could see.
I mean, I thought I could see before, but when I put those on and walked out of the office, I realized how much I had been missing.
I knew trees had individual leaves, but I had never really seen them while driving down the road or walking through the yard. I had only seen individual leaves when raking them or climbing a tree. I’m not sure where I thought they went (the leaves) when I looked at a tree. It just all became a big green blob that I knew to be a tree.
Probably the most remarkable was my realization that headlights on cars were not giant puffballs. I know, that may seem a little strange if you’ve always had good eyesight. What I mean is, pre-glasses, when I saw headlights at night, they looked like two giant puffballs of light affixed to the front of cars.
I wasn’t sure how that happened, but that was what I saw. When I had the glasses, though, I realized that headlights looked exactly the same at night and turned on as they did during the day, even when I was looking at them up close.
For all the things that literally became clearer and finally made sense to me, I still could not believe my eyes. I would look at the thing, remove my glasses and then put them back on again.
This would show me things as they really were and, without glasses, how they appeared to me. I would switch repeatedly between glasses and no glasses to make sure I was seeing correctly. It’s like I had to convince my eyes and my brain of reality.
As you can imagine, I never wanted to take off my glasses.
Now, you may be thinking, “I see where she is going with this. She is going to say that becoming a Christian was like putting on glasses for the first time. She could understand and see everything more clearly.”
Honestly, I kind of thought I was going to say that, too.
As I reflected on the metaphor, though, I realized that wasn’t really the case at all. I have realized that it wasn’t realistic to expect cosmic clarity on everything about life at the point of my baptism. Even if I had been an adult at the time of my commitment, I still don’t think that everything would have suddenly made sense at the point of becoming a Christian.
You know what?
LOTS of things are still blurry to me.
Why do children get diagnosed with illnesses that severely alter or shorten their lives? Why do people die tragically, leaving a spouse and young children behind to carry on? Why do terrorists randomly attack? Why is there so much injustice in the world? These are just the “big” questions.
In my everyday life, I don’t understand why I try my hardest on things at work and home, yet still come up short.
Why do my children still disobey when I’ve modeled and told them five times? Why do I overcook pork chops while trying to help with homework and convince a child to bathe on her own? Why do I sometimes want to stay in bed, when the day just seems like more than I feel equipped to handle? Why do I sometimes feel anxious or unsatisfied when everything is “fine” with my life?
Spoiler alert: I am not going to answer any of these questions. I don’t know the answers and I probably never will.
Being a Christian and having a biblical view of life do not automatically make things clearer. What it does do, however, is give me clarity on how everything is going to turn out.
In a nutshell, it gives me direction and perspective. My priorities are clear. Even when I get distracted by the world (and I certainly do…I’m highly distractible), I can always refocus by turning to God and His Word, the Bible.
When I don’t understand, I can be comforted by the fact that Jesus has already overcome the world. I don’t have to. I can just follow Him and do my best to be comfortable with not knowing.
The Bible doesn’t tell us that everything will be perfect and clear if we are Christians. It does say that “all things work together for good to those that love God to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).
I think a common misconception of this verse is that everything in life will be good if you love God. This was a clarifying moment for me; when I first realized that this is NOT what this verse means.
What it means is that, in the very end, all things will be good for those who have obeyed God’s Word. If it isn’t clear, the very end is the end of time. So, I can’t really expect that everything will be “right” and “good” for me in life, even if I am trying my best to do what the Bible says. Hmmm. That one is a little hard to swallow…at least it is for me.
So, what does seeing clearly have to do with Christianity if I can’t expect to know everything clearly in life??
The Bible has a lot to say about this, too. I can pray when I don’t understand, just like David did in Psalm 119:18, that God will “open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in Your law.”
I can refocus when I get distracted by remembering that “no eye has seen nor ear has heard, and no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him” (I Corinthians 2:9).
And, when I’m just so tied up in this life and need to be reminded of the broader perspective, I can think on I Corinthians 13:10-12.
In this passage, which I won’t quote in its entirety here, Paul is talking to new Christians, pretty shortly after Jesus’s death, resurrection and the beginning of the church. Paul says something that I think is so relevant to this blurry/clear thing. “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.”
He is telling those Christians (and me) that we are only seeing part of the story. We are seeing “dimly.” However, when we come to know Jesus and obey what the Bible says, we will gain access to His comfort, reassurance and guidance. We will be able to see, more clearly, the long view and God’s overall plan: to be together in heaven, where everything will be clear.
I’m still trying to be comfortable with not knowing and seeing everything clearly in this life. I know that God has cast a vision for my eternal future if I stay focused on Him. It will be perfectly clear and more incredible than I can imagine.