Lenses of faith
In recent months, I have experienced a reality that happens to many of us as we age. At first, I denied it and ignored it. But after too many months of squinting at my text messages and accordioning out my arms singing from a hymnal, I bought myself a pair of reading glasses. I’ve always needed contacts or glasses to see things far away, but only recently have I needed them to read.
My optometrist tells me that I am at just the right age for this sort of thing, and the key is to just embrace it. So now, I carry inexpensive readers in my purse. I’ve stashed them in all the various places I like to sit and read, and at my desk. I’m lucky that my vision can be repaired with a simple and accessible fix. But I just need to remember to have them with me and use them, because when I do, the world is so much clearer.
With this shift in my own practices of needing corrective lenses, I have become aware that so much of our lives of faith are about seeing. Not actually the shape of things we look at, but the perspectives we bring, the interpretations we include. Our actions are shaped by the ways we view other people or situations. If we perceive others with judgment or condemnation – we act in different ways than if we looked with compassion or understanding. Our seeing, our perceptions shape how we live in this world.
Jesus speaks of this himself when he talks about the great final judgment, and the blessing given to those who fed him, gave him water, and welcomed him, and the condemnation to those who didn’t. In the story, the people asked, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” But Jesus says, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:40).
The key to this story is not only the actions of love but the particular kind of seeing that motivates it. Jesus offers us a new lens to view other people. He urges us to see others as being the bearers of Christ. Our vision is corrected by this understanding, and this perspective shifts our actions, too. A bit like my needing to choose to put on my glasses, our loving perception takes a decision, a choice, and practice.
Maybe some of us are born with 20/20 compassion, but most of us need to be intentional about putting on our lenses of faith.