It's one of Jesus' more enigmatic sayings. The disciples ask him to explain why he speaks in parables, and he replies: "Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand" (see Matthew 13 for the whole context). It's a theme that runs throughout the Gospels, and one that Jesus picks up from writers of the Old Testament. God is at work in this world, but most of us are blind to it most of the time.
I thought about that passage when a friend asked me a few months back, "What do you think it takes for people to open their minds to a new idea?"
I'm approaching my 33rd birthday, and I'm pretty stuck in my ways. I drink black tea with one Splenda and lots of milk every morning. I place the same order every time I eat at Panera. I read TIME magazine cover to cover each week. I drink one Diet Coke in the afternoon. Every Tuesday, a friend comes over for a playdate with our kids. Every Thursday, my mom comes to visit and Peter and I go out to dinner. I drink a glass of wine, or two, in the evening. I go to church on Sunday and to small group on Monday nights.
I have a routine, a framework for understanding the world, habits of doing and being. In the past, it has been moving, sickness, death, and birth that have changed those patterns. I hope and pray that I won't face a major life crisis again anytime soon, and yet I sometimes long for the clarity of vision that came in their midst.
Do I have eyes to see what God is doing all around me? Do I have eyes to see my own faults and failings? Do I have eyes to see other people and their gifts? Do I have eyes to see other people and their needs?
It's the fear of being stuck, of becoming blind to the spiritual reality all around me, that has prompted me to decide to observe Lent this year. I can give all sorts of personal reasons why I will be fasting from alcohol for the next 40 days–the money, the calories, the fear of addiction–but really, it's because disrupting my own habits provides an opening for God's grace. Really, it's the hope that one small change will open my eyes.