These days I’m thinking a lot about seeing.
Maybe it’s because all of life – near and far – is a bit blurry while I wait for new glasses.
Maybe it’s because I’m reading about brothers and sisters whose way of seeing led them to joyfully give their lives for Jesus.
“[They] thought [their death] a small price to pay. What was persecution to them, considering the privilege they had of telling others about the one who promised eternal life? For that matter, what was death to them, considering that they belonged to the one who conquered death?” (Sittser, “Water from a Deep Well,” p. 46)
And maybe it’s because of Sara, a beautiful woman just my age who, after years of choosing joy in the midst of constant pain, has just seen Jesus without the dark glass of our sin-stained nature in between. She saw him, veiled, for years, longed for others to see him too. And the shirt that her body wore to the final celebration of her life summed up what she long lived: “It’s not about me.”
What was the prism through which these brothers and sisters saw so truly? I think it was love. They found themselves pursued. Arrested. Eyes blinded that they might be given soul-sight. And with Jesus in the center of their vision, the rest of life attained clarity.
They discovered that Christ was everything – their very life. And that suffering – with and for Jesus, eyes on his face - was one of the best places not only to find themselves loved by Jesus but to give their whole selves to him with whom they ached to be finally and fully united.
Maybe that’s why one of the earliest martyrs could say, “It has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him. . .” (Philippians 1:29) Granted. Charizomai. Its root is charis. “Grace.” And charizomai might be best translated “graciously granted” or “generously bestowed.” It has been graciously granted to you . . . to suffer for him. To suffer withhim. “I want to know Christ. . . and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings. . .”
“Take up your cross daily and follow me.” It's a call deeper into love. Most of us, today, will not meet our own physical death. But all of us will be graciously granted little opportunities to die. Let’s pick them up, eyes on Jesus, and follow him. Let’s let him fill the center of our field of vision, refract the rest of life so we can see it as graciously given, a place for deeper, richer union with Christ – and thus for joy.
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." (Hebrews 12:1-2)