Did you know that we sometimes use our eyes for purposes other than to see? And our ears for purposes other than to hear? I didn’t. I’d never really thought about it. Oh yes, I’ve stumbled upon the phrases in scripture before, but they’ve always been confusing, and I apparently didn’t feel compelled to seek understanding. I suppose I’ve sped past those phrases in search of some golden nugget of truth, apparently something more obvious…or maybe one that better fit with my expectations about reality.
There was one time when I tried to understand it intellectually, or maybe it was spiritually. I don’t remember. It was during a seminary class on the Gospel of Luke. I convinced myself I had figured it out after putting my mental machine into action, sorting and categorizing the dimensions of the scenes into a framework of meaning that suited my worldview. But just as Granner Schaefer once said after taking a bite of my mother in-law’s attempt at an old family recipe for Italian custard, “This isn’t it!” I hadn’t gotten it right either. I didn’t know it. I was quite satisfied to believe I’d solved the enigma of Jesus’ words, and then I moved on with my life. It’s hard coming back from a decision like that.
Last week I heard it put in the form of a question. For what purpose do people use their ears if not for hearing? And for what purpose do people use their eyes if not for seeing? When put that way, the answer seemed obvious.
The answer is this: instead of using their eyes and ears for the purpose of seeing and hearing, they use them to sort and organize incoming sights and sounds into frameworks that fit what they desire to believe (about themselves, the world around them, reality, God…whatever keeps their world in line with what they want). In other words, the actual “thing” they see or hear doesn’t have a chance of getting acknowledged as it truly is, or appropriated as a belief, because it immediately gets sucked into the “make it fit my beliefs about reality” machine and has no chance of survival.
This is what we do to protect ourselves from having to deal with reality. Why do we do this? We do it for many reasons, but basically we do it because we’ve been wrongly persuaded about reality (and we don’t even know it). It’s much easier to live in denial. Sometimes reality is hard: it pushes on our wounds, our issues, our fears about dealing with messy stuff, and, God forbid, our pride. After all, we might be wrong. And wouldn’t that be terrible.
Confession: I’m 100 percent absolutely guilty of misusing my own eyes and ears. The moment this epiphany made its way through my front-line defense system, it struck me with a vengeance, like a stun gun (No I’ve never been stun gunned – just a figure of speech).
Now I’m wondering…how do I dismantle my automatic sorting/organizing machine and begin to see with my eyes and hear with my ears without freaking out? Seriously, this reality stuff can be pretty terrifying when you’ve lived your entire life feeling safe and secure in your own little make-believe world of predictability, a world protected by your well-honed mental machine that stands out in front of your life doing it’s job of auto-sorting and categorizing all the incoming sights and sounds. And then…of course, the answer comes at the end of the paragraph.
I just need to be willing.