At my breakfast table, I wipe some forgotten crumbs away, and gaze out the windows casting soft gray light in front of me. My house is still chilly with the morning. I am sitting to read the archaic language of long-dead warriors and historians because I believe that this will help me deal with toddlers, my sometimes-conflicting ambitions, my love life, the snarky teenagers I teach at church, and my mean neighbor who glares at my kids whenever we play outside. From a logical standpoint, scripture study is a stretch. It’s hard to believe that the word of God is going to magically answer practical, real-life questions.
That is, until I adjust my gaze. No matter where I’m at, reading the word of God helps me to see with new eyes, with more light, with more faith. I’ll use two analogies to illustrate how scripture study opens my mind to “heaven’s view.” Number one: look for the ceiling. And number two: look with soft eyes.
I was pregnant with my third baby, super sick and tired, my 2 1/2 and one year olds running circles around me in a cramped townhouse with only one window on a cloudy and cold Minnesota evening. My husband, coming home, could see both my malaise and my defensive self-pity. He scooted some toys aside, lay down on the floor next to me, tucked me into his shoulder and just breathed with me for awhile. He said, “On days when you’re stressed out and need a reference point, just lie on the floor and look at the ceiling. You will see . . .” and paused thinking of something to say. Suddenly more silly than solemn, he continued: “You will see that we can’t live on the ceiling, and so it is perfectly clean. Nothing to step on. Unblemished!”
Wait, what? An entire room that was clean in my house and it was right above me! I couldn’t stop laughing! The absurdity of it all, the solidarity of my husband, and the surprising joy at being able to laugh again, refreshed me as little else could.
Our life is messy down here. It’s busy. It’s tough. And it’s tough to see the upside of our gravity-thwarted life. But to see “things as they really are” is not only about our physical reality (or our cyber reality); it’s also about our spiritual reality, and can only be discerned as a gift of the Spirit.
In other words, seeing is more about perception than about staring something down. It’s about sensing things in our periphery. I’ve learned this riding horses. When you ride a horse, it’s not only about where you look, but it’s also about how you look. When I ride a horse with hard eyes, I’m expecting to fall. I look for every potential hazard. But when I look with “soft eyes,” I look up and ahead of me with a relaxed gaze. I breathe. Learning this technique has made such a difference – my hands are gentler on the reins, my legs are steadier, and I move with my horse. I also get to enjoy views like this last summer:
Like riding a horse, life is usually lived in motion. We need “soft eyes,” looking up and ahead to keep our balance. Back at my kitchen table with my archaic scriptures, I can go from being a grumpy, cold-toed mom, absently scratching dirty spots on my table, to someone who looks out those early-morning windows and simply sees more. When I prayerfully study the word of God, there is a spiritual quality to the rest of my day that was not there before. It’s not that I’m fundamentally more “spiritual” than I was, but more like things that I didn’t see before are now visible to me. I see the spiritual side of things. There is an entire world above me and around me. It’s an understanding beyond the physical reality in front of me. Some would call this a paradigm change. I believe it’s what the scriptures call faith.
I try to read my scriptures on a daily basis (as opposed to a crisis basis) because the results are cumulative. I often think, Man, if I could just have enough time to really catch up, you know? But prayerful scripture study helps me look up and out, with soft eyes, and I can find my equilibrium even in the midst of a hectic blur of activity. I am more relaxed at the same time as I am more responsive, kind of like the new cyclist who, looking up, finally stops crashing into parked cars. (I’ll name no names!) With soft eyes, I am not so consumed with a hard view of my “reality,” but rather allow for a new vision to settle around me. It is a vision that not only includes the points and edges of things in front of me, but also the periphery, the things more sensed than actually seen.
The word of God shows me that life is spiritual. Scriptures act as a conduit for light to illuminate my life. I give space and time for the light to distill, as dew from heaven. Gradually, almost imperceptible in its arrival, and yet tangible in its presence, I am changed by that light. I discern more clearly things that can’t be seen, including the hearts and desires of toddlers, teenagers, neighbors, my husband and myself.
When I am stressed out and think that I do not have time to study, I try to remember a lesson from my Econ 101 book: “Scarcity forces choice.” It is true that we do not have time for everything, and things are often more urgent, more immediate in this life than scripture study. But that is the choice before us, every day. As Linda Reeves said, scripture study is among the very practices that actually “help take away stress, give direction to our lives, and add protection to our homes.” I, too, know from experience that this is absolutely true. Heavenly light from the scriptures is like food to a hungry body, water to a thirsty throat, balm to wounded flesh, an anchor to a confused mind. It is like having new eyes to see, even from my kitchen table, how my little world is actually part of God’s world, plain and real and full of His love.
Becca is a contributing author for the Grow Your Faith column of The Small Seed. She can be found any night of the year satiating her addiction to buttered popcorn, she can be recognized by her Lego-induced limp on one side, and, according to knowing sources at the grocery store, she “has her hands full, bless her heart.” Rather than add more to her life, she is trying to keep up what she is already doing, just with more faith and devotion to her Savior Jesus Christ, so it can be said of her, “she hath done what she could.”