Thursday, January 2, 2014

Changing Lenses

”The eye is the lamp of the body.  So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness.”  Matthew 6:22-23

“How you see is what you see.”  Richard Rohr

A few days ago, I found a pair of old glasses in a drawer while looking for a place to put a new flashlight I got for Christmas.  They are still my favorite glasses, the ones without any frames, but my optometrist wouldn’t change the prescription on them, so I had to get new ones.  Feeling nostalgic, I put them on.  It’s amazing the difference a couple of clicks on the prescription wheel can make.  I got dizzy, everything was distorted and blurry, but only for a few minutes.  After that, my eyes adjusted, and I ended up wearing them the rest of the day. 
A new year is as good a time as any to think about the lenses we see the world through. 

We’ve all heard someone described as seeing the world through “rose-colored glasses,” meaning that person is seeing the situation as better than it actually is.  But those Pollyannas, as strange as they are to us, force us to realize that our experience is never objective and that we always have a choice in how we interpret what happens in our lives.  The problem, I think, is that we too often let that choice be made for us.   

Like those old glasses I put on, it doesn’t take long for emotions like aggravation and victimization to move from a heightened emotional state that dizzies me with anger to something I internalize.  They are the lens I adjust to and start seeing my whole life through (and certainly, the lens I start seeing certain people through). 
William James summed up much of much of psychology when he said, “My experience is what I agree to attend to.”  Everything else in the room you are in right now other than what you are choosing to focus on do not become part of your experience.  They exist, but just not to your experience.  This insight has become the focus of volumes of study on “mindfulness.”  The results are proving that, to a large extent, we can consciously decide what we want to focus on, and choose a more meaningful experience in doing so. 

Jesus is telling us some similar, isn't he?  “If your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light.”  As Rohr says, how we see ends up determining what we see.  And Jesus tells us this matters deeply for our spiritual health.  
We’ve all witnessed it, haven’t we:  two poor women – one bitter and one with joy in her heart; two rich men – one with quiet humility and one an entitled jerk; the dying man – who, if he’s been awake even a part of his life, has “thank you” in his heart even when his prognosis is bleak.  Life is going to come; it’s up to us to mind our lamps, as Jesus would say, and put on the right lenses to make sure we see the joy and meaning in it.   

So here’s to picking up those old, cracked, gratitude-and-grace-filled lenses and looking out on life and the people in it this new year.  And here's to our faith that in doing so, we'll all be filled with light.

No comments: