Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Better Eyes

 The older I get, the more I understand that life is really all about seeing. 

When someone comments on one of my floral drawings, I'm usually quick to point out the my skill level is not actually extraordinary. I just look really hard at where the curves and lines are on my flower, then try my best to make my lines the same... or mostly. Typically, said person still thinks that takes some skill, but to me it just seems like I have learned to see lines clearly. 

This same concept is true in painting. In order to paint a picture well, you need to be able to see well first. Variances in shadows, shades, lines, colors: it's all very important if you are trying to replicate, even in general, a landscape or portrait or anything that happens to be your subject. 

Living well is also an art, and it also takes a special kind of seeing. 

I've been considering this more during the last couple years of my foray into more and more fiction literature, especially as I have wandered into fairytales (unfortunately, only in reading, not in reality). I'm currently listening to Lilith by George MacDonald, and after also listening to Phantastes last year, I am seeing so many connections, so many truths that for some reason do not immediately hit home at first glance. It has reminded of Moses. 

We all know that Moses saw the burning bush, but there's a tiny detail I saw in the story that forever changed me. 

"Then the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire within a bush. As Moses looked, he saw that the bush was on fire but was not consumed. So Moses thought "I must go over and look at this remarkable sight. Why isn't the bush burning up?" When the LORD saw that he had gone over to look, God called out to him from the bush, "Moses, Moses!" Exodus 3:2-4

Moses didn't just see the burning bush and then God spoke. Moses saw the bush, he wondered about it, decided to look more closely in order to understand it, and that's when God spoke. In fact, scripture reads like that is the reason why God spoke to him. I'm sure God knew Moses would wonder and then look more closely, but this is still important to see, to remember, and to know why that detail is important. 

As I continue in educating myself and my children, I keep asking a lot of questions. Some days, the questions are more like "Is this worth it?" "Am I doing more good than harm?" "Could someone else do this better?" But for the most part, the questions that keep coming to mind are "How can I use this to make a difference in their lives?" "How can I help more people see the truth?" and even "How does anyone actually see the truth?" As my mind sometimes begins to spiral from one heavy question to another, I often wonder what the point of all our education really is. I know in my head that it is to know God and make Him known, and to help all of us better see truth, beauty, and goodness, but then, how are we to use those things and what is it we really ought to do

Education, like drawing and painting, is a practice in seeing more clearly. The older I get the more convinced I am that seeing better will equal living better. Seeing God's reality more clearly will help me to sin less voluntarily, to live more freely, to love more willingly. We think if we figure out what to do, we will see how to go about it. This is backwards! We need to see first and trust that what to do will come out of that clarity.

The problem is, most of us do not see the truth being displayed around us every day. The world lies to us, people lie to us, even our minds lie to us. This is where excellent fiction can help tear down the things that keep us from seeing, and in so doing, free us to live better. 

It's easy to see error in the story of a sweet 11 year old boy making a devilish mistake or a grown bachelor wasting his life wondering away in a library instead of actually living. We are told his inner motives, witness the fallout, and hopefully also see the forgiveness and redemption on the other side. We don't often get to see the pieces so clearly in our own lives, and it's generally far too painful to have someone else point them out directly. But when we are immersed in a story that can stay on the pages, it somehow bleeds into us in a safe way, a private way, so we can walk through our challenges without fear and then come out with a deeper understanding of how our lives are impacting the world around us. It gives us a way out of ourselves so that the way we see ourselves is closer to the reality others see. It's not the same as introspection, or obsession with self-knowledge, but like looking into a mirror where we see some of the ugly reality but also a way out. 

Ultimately, that way out is always Jesus, and the path is also almost always through a pattern of surrender and sacrifice. Here is where stories give us the courage to believe what we see! When you read the best of fiction, namely fairytales, you also see how this difficult path our ordinary hero takes is always for his good. He always comes out better, more beloved, more content, and more at peace. We see his outcome and it gives us the courage to trust the outcome Christ has for us, the outcome Christ has freely given us through His death and resurrection. We know that our death will not be the tragedy we sometimes envision, and that our surrender is sure to breed good fruit. 

I am finally understanding in my heart what C.S. Lewis meant when he explained "But someday you will be old enough to start reading fairytales again." 

A good fairytale is really just truth that is sweet, small, and beautiful enough for us to devour without realizing the goodness it will give our souls. It is just one way that God can give us eyes to see and ears to hear. So, by all means, still make reading your bible a first priority, but then, wander into a fairytale and embrace the new vision it will give you of God, of the world, and your place in it. 

* This post does contain affiliate links and I certainly appreciate the extra few cents it may reward me ;)

No comments:

Post a Comment