It’s a matter of focus, I suppose. It has become clear to me that my eyes are not what they once were. I need glasses to read and while the nice lady behind the counter at my optometrist seems perfectly willing to remind me each and every time, I could have them make me some with my prescription, maybe even sunglasses, just so I could use my benefit, I do just fine with the kind I get at Walgreen’s, thank you very much.
But it is a matter of focus. The place where I can focus is getting farther and farther away from my face. Even Caitlyn needs readers these days, or, as the old joke goes, longer arms as her focus point gets farther and farther away.
She’ll make do with the ones from the drug store as well, since she needs them only occasionally.
Mine is unusual, Caitlyn’s is typical since you normally have farsightedness from a young age. Nearsightedness you develop more as you age but, lucky me, I can see road signs from a long way away but struggle to read this page without the glasses.
It is a function of being human. It is a part of our fallibility, our frailty, our brokenness that we have to come to grips with and handle in a mature fashion, like glasses or contacts, like hearing aids when our hearing starts to fail, like a walker when our strength begins to leave us.
It is ours to come to grips with in a mature fashion, but we seldom do, it seems. Most people fight having to make these accommodations, show the signs of their weakness. We put off getting hearing aids until exactly everyone in our lives has told us a hundred times how much we need them. We avoid hiving glasses because of the way they look, and heaven forbid we should be seen in a wheelchair or with a walker, the shame of it.
Which is too bad, I should think. Imagine how much better life is when you can see it all, taste it all, hear it all. Think about how much of life you miss when pride gets in the way and blocks the view.
That’s what changes our focus all the time, pride. Pride makes us think of our children as our legacy instead of seeing them as having the own lives to lead, their own becomings to live out. Our vision is shortened, our reach diminished because we will only see what we want to see, only see what is within our grasp and only attempt what is within our capabilities.
We see only the fig tree, the fruit it is supposed to be giving us and not the possibilities within it, not the life, not the metaphor, not the hope that it takes to plant and to tend and to nourish this little bit of life in our midst, this little tree, sadly producing no fruit.
We focus in on the fruit and miss out on the rest.
The gardener, working the soil and tending the life of the gardens and vineyards has a longer view. Time and time again the gardener has brought life out of the soil, has nurtured and tended and sometimes that has borne fruit, sometimes it has not but in the gardener is the hope, the dream about that which is beyond his own reach, out of himself and into the possibilities of God.
Maybe there is a blessing in not giving up, in not simply feeding our own needs and instead looking past them and into the realm where we are not in control. Maybe there is hope still for those things that do not please us, that there is another plan in play.
This is just what Isaiah is talking about, what he cries out in anguish over. Why is it you spend your days and your money and your time and your effort on the things that will not truly feed you? Sure, they will feed your belly and they will feed your pride and they will feed your bank account, but when you stand before the Lord of hosts, what will they mean?
God provides the true food and drink, the real sustenance for your soul free of charge, out of pure grace the word and the witness has been given over to you. And kind of in the middle of that scripture there is the evidence that God’s vision is greater, that God’s focus is farther than ours and purer.
“See, you shall call nations that you do not know, and nations that do not know you shall run to you, because of the Lord your God.”
Outside of our own vision, beyond our own vision, lies the vision of God and blessings as yet unknown are to be found there, if only we will seek God and God’s vision and not our own, if only we will place our faith in the vision of God, the vision that all are to be delivered from their sin and made whole, the vision that all might turn from their wickedness and turn toward their God.
Even now we struggle in our pluralistic world to see people from other faiths turning toward Christ, to see Richard Dawkins confess his sin and receive the abundance of forgiveness that is in Christ but even now God dreams such dreams, envisions such ideas because it is the will of God that all should come home in Christ.
Our vision does not extend that far. We are a people of accommodations and rationalizations, of parsing our words and measuring our statements with focus groups and with media consultants so that nothing we say will offend, nothing we say will cause a ruckus.
God is not quite so timid. It is certainly a scandal to say that in Christ Jesus the glory of God was put to death by the hands of men and was raised again as a sign that death’s power has been ended among God’s creation.
It flies in the face of everything we can touch and smell and prove with logic and yet we cleave to this idea with ferocity because it gives voice to that vision, that startling vision of a world made whole that we hear in the scriptures and see, when we are paying close attention, in the voices and actions of God’s people.
Christ was the one flipping tables over in the marketplace, offending any and all who came near with a vision that they simply could not grasp, with the notion that money wasn’t everything and that getting it shouldn’t have to involve fraud and profiteering.
It is an absurdity outside of walls like these that your values, your faith should make its mark in the marketplace and yet that is God’s vision; that you should treat everyone as if they were your own family, as if they were your own children, as if they were Christ Himself.
It is a matter of focus, I guess.
Ours is always a little closer than the Lord’s often no farther than the reach of our hands.
We look for blame and assign it liberally so long as it lets us off the hook.
When Andy Lopez was shot, everyone immediately began pointing fingers. It was the crazy Sheriff’s deputy, it was the schools, it was the parents, it was the neighborhood, it was the city for not getting on with Annexation. It was a great number of people and at no time, and I was following this pretty closely, at no time did anyone say that it was all of us.
Sure, I didn’t point the gun at the child, but what did I do to make the lot of my neighbor any better? Did I work to improve the schools? Did I seek to get the Sheriff’s department to improve their screening process for deputies? Did I work for annexation, bringing in the Moreland avenue neighborhood under the umbrella of the Santa Rosa Police Department?
Did I ever ask the question, even once, of why a little brown boy’s death meant less on this side of town than it did on that side?
All of those things are covered under what I believe to be true through Christ Jesus and yet, where was it that I let my vision become smaller, when did I stop seeking first the Kingdom of God and start seeking any other thing?
We figure that the Galileans must be worse sinners because of the fate they suffered, just substitute Andy Lopez for Galileans and you get an idea of what Jesus is talking about.
It is a matter of focus, I am convinced.
Beyond our own vision there is the world that God would have us inhabit. Not a someday-after-we-die kind of world but this world, only ruled by God’s vision for us. It’s not that hard to define, God’s top ten list covers the bulk of it. Killing, lying, cheating, stealing, those are out, loving, honoring, living and tending, those are in.
Trusting in the vision of God is in, thinking we can do better, well, that’s out.
I know it sounds simplistic. I know it sounds naïve. I know that it sounds like the ravings of a zealot but take my word for it, I am nobody’s zealot.
It is simply what there is. God’s vision and whether or not we will trust in it.
It is not, he said with boldness, merely obedience like Paul seems to be asking for in 1 Corinthians. Heck, even Rusty knows how to not get in trouble and he’s a dog. He doesn’t make it very often, but when I come home and he’s been naughty, he is very repentant, slinking to and fro because he knows I will be angry at having to clean up the trash in the kitchen again.
Obedience is the sign of God’s vision, not the path to God’s vision.
It is surrender to a greater vision than your own, surrender to a greater will than your own. The demands that sentence makes upon you will seem daunting in this modern age. You have to seek ye first the Kingdom of God and trust that these things will be added unto you.
You have to tread on paths you cannot see and speak out even when it frightens you. You have to care about widows and orphans out there as much as we do in here. You have to love without fear, and give without counting the cost.
You have to trust that God has your back and not try and get the things of God without following in God’s way. Abraham tried to find his own way to get the promises of God and look how it worked out for him. It was not until he surrendered that the promises came true, sure, now he had two sons, but only one was the fulfillment of the promise.
It’s hard, I know, to think of everything we have worked for and sweated for and bled for to be temporary and only God’s word to be everlasting, but that is the way it is. That is God’s vision, I should think, that we should put on the glasses of scripture and have our vision increased by the addition of God’s word.
It is far easier to follow our own wisdom, to bear fruit to our own glory and to think of ourselves as wise in the process. Thankfully, God, our own gardener, is wiser still and will dig us around, fertilize us with God’s word, and see if we can do better next time.
It is a matter of focus.
Grace, forgiveness and the promise in the longer vision, striving after that which is not bread, that which will not satisfy, the feeding of our own egos in the shorter vision.
Upon which will we fix our gaze?
Where will we set our focus?