Looking until you see

Is it true that seeing is believing? We have to see evidence with your own eyes before we can believe anything. After all, we are in an age of enlightenment when facts rule.

Or do our eyes play tricks on us?

Have you ever lost your keys and looked and looked for them, only to realise they were right in front of you! Hiding in plain sight. We didn’t see them because we didn’t expect them to be THERE.

Or have we ever seen someone and made a quick judgement about them only to realise we were completely wrong when we get to know them?

The trouble is that we usually look but don’t see. We scan, flip, scroll across images and through documents, skimming over the surface, picking up impressions but failing to grasp the depth and richness of content.

Part of my training to be a spiritual director was to learn to see deeply – to hold a space, a moment, a story, giving it time to unfold. Waiting for what is hidden to come to the surface. Watching and listening for what is truly there.

One challenging exercise was to choose something, anything, and simply give it my attention silently for 20 minutes. And then report back on what happened!

What happened was profound and memorable. Each of us in the group had a similar experience despite focussing on completely different things.

I chose a rose from the vase in my kitchen – a beautiful pink rose in its youthful beauty, erect and firm. I sat and looked, admired and enjoyed. It was easy to delight in its colour and its familiar, graceful shape. The queen of flowers!

Looking became seeing – the detail of its beautiful design and exquisite elegance.

Seeing became thinking about how this rose grew from a gnarled woody plant. How it produced such vibrant colour. How its life was short, and yet new flowers would grow to replace it.

Thinking became wonder at the fragility and complexity of something so beautiful and yet so short lived.

Wonder became a search for meaning. Why is there such fragile, vulnerable, recurring beauty? I felt hope in the cycle of life, death and resurrection in all nature.

That hope became an encounter with the creator and designer.

Einstein is supposed to have said that there are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle and the other is as though everything is a miracle. In that 20 minutes I was in no doubt that the rose in front of me was a stunning miracle. It was a humbling awakening moment for me.

Jesus didn’t mince his words in condemning those who were so blinded by their antagonistic beliefs about him that they couldn’t see the truth of what was in front of them. You blind fools! he called them (Matthew 23:17). He told stories about everyday things – a farmer, a father, a businessman. Each to show us what God is like and that he is here with us in the everyday things of life.

Can we dare to let go of beliefs about God that stop us from seeing him right in front of our eyes?

Sometimes you have to believe to see.

Try this:

Is there someone or something that you could give your attention to for just 20 minutes? Who knows what beauty and vulnerability and hope you might discover?