Thursday, May 14, 2015

Straining to See

Sometimes, I close my eyes when I pray - for the reasons we've been discussing this week. But sometimes? Sometimes, I don't. And there are reasons for that, too. 

Yesterday, I said that sometimes, I close my eyes when I pray because there's nothing worth looking at. Because I can't look at this brokenness for one more minute. But sometimes, I don't close my eyes when I pray because I desperately need to see. I need to see...something.

I need to see something beautiful. I remember one time, I was standing on the edge of an open field in the middle of the country, and the endless rows of untamed weeds seemed to reflect my spiritual state at the moment. Not ugly, just drab. Just the kind of thing you look at and know it's weeds. And I stood there, praying, eyes wide open, when I caught a glimpse of a single splash of color about thirty feet away. As I focused in on it, I discovered a lone wildflower in the middle of this field. One lone splash of life in the midst of the weeds. Had I prayed with my eyes closed, I would have missed it. 

Or I'll pray with my eyes to the sky, watching the clouds roll by. And all of a sudden, the sun just sort of breaks through and creates this beautiful artwork across the heavens. If I prayed with my eyes closed, I would have missed it. 

Sometimes, my eyes get flooded by the pain, by the brokenness, by the hurt in this world and it's so easy to close them. As I said yesterday, there's nothing worth looking at. But against all better judgment, I hold my eyes open and pray with a ferventness of heart - Lord, let me see. Give me something to look at. 

And He never disappoints. 

It doesn't come easy. I want to turn away. I want to embrace the barrenness in my own soul and retreat into darkness. I want to start my prayer and just sort of let it trail off into emptiness, the way my spirit feels sometimes. With eyes wide open, I can't do that. 

With eyes wide open, prayer pulls me out of my emptiness. Or at least, it has the chance to. It doesn't mean I dive right into fullness; sometimes, I just see one full thing in the middle of it all. One flower in a field of weeds. One ray of sun on a cloudy day. One drop of dew on a blade of grass. Heck, there have been times in my life where I have felt blessed to notice the one nail on the deck that sticks up a little too far. It's the smallest, and sometimes, the craziest things. 

I think it's because sometimes, the troubles in this life seem like the biggest things. Whatever I'm dealing with, whatever I'm wrestling with, it seems so huge. Like it's just looming over me. And these little things that God grants me to see, they pull me back into my own smallness in that mystifying way, like standing under the stars at night. They draw me back into a universe in which everything is in its rightful place. All the big stuff, all the small stuff, there's purpose or meaning it. There's something holy in it. It's a reflection of God, and it pulls me back.

So I don't always close my eyes when I pray. Sometimes, I keep them open. Because I'm straining to see one good thing around me.

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