Learning to See

One of my favourite childhood memories is cloud-watching. I grew up in Saskatchewan and I remember days when my friends and I would lay out in a grassy field someplace for hours and watch the clouds float by overhead, gazing for recognizable shapes. And these weren’t the kind of low-lying grey clouds that we’re used to in Ontario. These were towering, three-dimensional monsters that you could see coming and took hours to sail across the endless prairie sky.  I remember one time with my best friend, Jamie McEachern. We were out in a field someplace and he noticed one particular cloud and said, “I see a lion.” I looked at the clouds available to my view but didn’t see anything that remotely resembled a lion. “Where?” I asked. “There”, he said, pointing upward with his right arm. Lying beside him I tried to follow where he was pointing and examined the cloud I thought he was pointing at. “I don’t see it” I said. “It’s right there” he said, now gesturing with his outstretched hand. “There’s the head and mane – don’t you see it?” Nothing. I could see the cloud alright, but as hard as I tried I could not see the lion that Jamie was seeing.

That’s a picture of what I was meaning this past Sunday when I spoke about how, when it comes to the kingdom of God, we have to learn to “see” it. When we are born again, God heals our eyes so that we are no longer spiritually blind. Now we are able to see what we could not see before. But that does not mean that we understand what we are seeing. That is a learning experience.

I told the story of quantum physicist, Arthur Zajonc, whose research interest is the properties of light. In his 2003 book, Catching the Light, Zajonc tells the story of a 10 year old boy who was born blind due to cataracts. Two surgeons successfully restored the boy’s sight after corneal transplants. The doctors removed the bandages after the boy had healed and one waved his hand in front of the boy’s eyes. “What do you see?” they asked. “I don’t know” he replied. The boy instinctively reached out his hand to touch the shape that we in front of his face and immediately cried out, “It’s a hand!” The surgeons realized that, while they had successfully restored the boy’s ability to see, he had no cognitive ability to understand what he was seeing yet. That would need to be learned. 

Zajonc makes this interesting conclusion. “The sober truth remains that vision requires more than a functioning organ. Without inner light, without formative visual imagination, we are blind. To give sight to the congenitally blind person is more the work of an educator and a surgeon.” 

We know that the kingdom of God is near, even in our midst! (Luke 17:20-21). Yet we have trouble perceiving it. That is because we don’t yet understand it when we see it. That’s why we’ve set out this year at Forest Brook to learn the secrets of the Kingdom of God (Matthew 13:11). We’ve committed to looking at what Jesus said about this kingdom and taking His word seriously. With God’s help, let’s ask Him to help us “see” it for ourselves!