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Monday, July 4, 2016

Seeing what we want to see

Jonathan Swift said, "Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others." H. Jackson Brown said something similar: "Sometimes the heart sees what is invisible to the eye." Some believe we become kind of indifferent to what we see the most.  When we take in the same things day after day, we often don't realize how much they have changed in the course of time because we haven't anymore "acuity of perception" when it comes to those things.  It isn't that they become "invisible" to us as much as we become "numb" to the subtle changes they are going through. This might not be important to the one who views the Golden Gate bridge from far off in the distance, taking in that majestic expanse over the churning ocean waters near San Francisco, but to the one in their car right now passing over that suspended expanse, they are counting on someone taking in every nook and cranny of that bridge on a regular basis with the eye of an eagle.  Depending upon our "view", we can see things differently.  We can see things from afar - removed from them, so to speak - and see them as beautiful, awe-inspiring, and even a little bit scary at times.  As we near them - getting a bird's eye view - we can often see specific areas where we never knew subtle imperfections, creatures of beauty, or havens of hope existed - all missed because we never got near enough to notice these subtleties!

Do not seek revenge or hold a grudge against any of your people. Instead, love your neighbor as you love yourself, for I am the Eternal One.  (Leviticus 19:18 VOICE)

Such is the case when we hold grudges against one another.  We have developed one way of seeing the individual and the circumstances for which we feel it "okay" to form ill-feelings and allow ill-will to be created.  We might not really see all there is to see, but we have formed an opinion, nonetheless. If vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others as Swift postulates, then I wonder what manner of "vision" we use in our lives as we begin to view others? Are we looking for the things we can find fault in, but which really don't influence outcome all that much?  Or are we only taking fault with the things which will ultimately place our relationship with each other in a place of jeopardy? Taking issue is not the same as seeking revenge or holding a grudge, though.  True neighborly love looks for the things in relationship which make or break it!

When engineers inspect the vast expanse of the Golden Gate bridge, they look for things caused by the influence of the environment this bridge exists within.  It spans an ocean bay - therefore it is subject to salty sea waters, winds, and even the dense fogs which come on occasion.  They look at the structural soundness of the bridge's infrastructure because this is what will keep those who pass over it safe.  In fact, this bridge is described by engineers as "functionally obsolete".  About 11,500 people pass over that bridge each and every day probably not aware the deck structure is only "satisfactory" with a "sufficiency rating" of 59.9 out of a possible 100 points!  Yet, do they know this?  Do they consider this on their journey?  Probably not!  Why?  They see what they see and they don't know what they don't know!  

In relationship, we see what we see.  The problem is that we may not be "seeing" in totality, or we may have a faulty understanding of what it is we are seeing.  Have you ever seen one of those pieces of artwork that looks like you are seeing a huge vase of flowers, only to have the "artwork" unfold into a human being who gets up and walks away?  It is only then that you realize you have seen a beautifully painted image of flowers upon human form!  To see life one way is to limit the ways life can be taken in from the vantage point of others.  We may never see all things "eye to eye", but of this one thing I am certain - God didn't make us to find fault with each other, nor to ignore the important changes each of us is going through in life.  

Revenge looks at another with the idea of punishing another for a wrong we feel they have done to us. It is us retaliating against the other person.  I think God warns us so strongly against taking revenge into our own hands because of our limited ability to see things as we think they should be seen and not really having the full perspective.  Just as those who venture across the Golden Gate bridge each day on their way to and from work, we see things one way, but do we really see them as they really are?  Grudges are a little different because they are feelings we form based on the way our emotions are affected when we see someone a certain way.  Grudges are based on dissatisfying things in the relationship.  In other words, we allow our emotions to be affected by how we see things.

Revenge is the action behind the grudge.  Our passage today reminds us that both the emotion and the action may be incorrect - because we see what we want to see and often based on what is it we come to feel or not feel within that relationship.  Although feelings are good things most of the time, when they take us down the path of focusing on only the bad stuff, we soon find ourselves wanting to travel down the path of revenge!   Just sayin!