Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Do We See Him? Do We Hear Him?

Slice of Infinity (below) is simple today but such an accurate reflection of our human condition.

The longer I live, the heavier my heart is to see that humans--more often than not--refuse to face themselves with absolute death-bed honesty. This truth is ever pressed more firmly upon my mind. I realize--more than ever--how blessed I am to have been born to parents who were real, parents who faced the reality of what they were and committed themselves to the truth no matter the cost.

The more I study the life of Jesus, the more I see how different He was/is compared to the image painted of Him by so many people who claim to follow Him. As I study His life, I am watching Him as best I know how... hearing Him and listening to Him with my whole heart, allowing His example to transform me as new understanding comes.

I recommend this as the best way to live, and I have great hope that it is the way to die as well!

 ~I have bolded and enlarged the main points below.

Half-Hearted Hearing

I am notorious for reading sentences—sometimes entire pages—before realizing that that my mind is simply elsewhere. With my eyes moving along the paragraphs, taking in the ordered sentences, it is as if my mind pronounces each word into a room with no vacancy. I am reading in a way that can't even be called half-hearted. Evidently, the practical spirit of multi-tasking isn't always practical.  Mentally outlining my to-do list while reading Tolstoy isn't reading Tolstoy. Hearing the words, I have heard nothing. I walk away from the paragraphs as if never seeing the sentences at all.

So it is distinctly possible, as Jesus once stated, to see without seeing, and to hear without hearing. I do it often, and not only with Tolstoy.

Like all communication there are degrees to which we hear the stories of Scripture, the words of Christ. There are levels of interest, concentration, and understanding. Like all metaphors there are levels in seeing, layers to uncover, depths that call for attentiveness. Jesus's parables, conversations, and descriptions of reality ring in ears on many wavelengths. We can hear them as moral fables, abstract stories, truthful similes and images, great and awful mysteries at which we do well to pay attention, words we must try our hardest to ignore. Like the Pharisees who fumed as Jesus told the parable of the tenants, we might even recognize ourselves in the storyline. It is how we react to these mirrored images that are of significance.

What does it take to look into a mirror and walk away as if completely forgetting what you have seen? I suspect, as with my less than half-hearted reading, not much. When the Pharisees saw themselves in the words of Jesus's parable, they were furious. Wholeheartedly, they began scheming a strategy to silence him. Ironically, they were plotting to do exactly what the parable said they would do.

Christianity describes our world with a wealth of detail. But more than a system whereby we believe certain information and thus call ourselves Christians, it is a transforming way; it is intended to be life itself. If we merely hear God's words, or half-see reflections of truth, we actually miss everything. Such a response cannot even be called half-hearted. Like the pages I have read mindlessly—lifelessly—in seeing we have seen nothing, hearing we have heard nothing. As one writer describes this common self-deception, "[I]f any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like" (James 1:22-24).

As when the Pharisees saw themselves in Jesus's words, so our own reflections wait to be noticed in his words. A response is inescapable; we will hear and live into a new story, or we will walk away as if never hearing.

Upon Jesus's telling of the parable of the tenants, his hearers walk away from the mirror holding only vacant memories. Though they saw themselves in the story, they walked away from this knowledge. Furthermore, Mark recounts, "Then they looked for a way to arrest him because they knew he had spoken the parable against them. But they were afraid of the crowd; so they left him and went away" (Mark 12:12).

In seeing will you see? In hearing will you hear?

Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.