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New Vision: Do we have 20/20?
“This is why I speak to them in parables: “Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand. In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: “‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them” (Matthew 13:13-15, New International Version).
When I was sixteen, I remember sitting in Math class and struggling to read the equations on the board. It wasn’t that I couldn’t see them. I could, to some extent. But unless I was near the front of the board, they were fuzzy. I never did like math.
Instead of getting my eyes checked, however, I simply chose to sit near the front of the class in all of my classes, high school and college included. And honestly, after I graduated college, I didn’t think there was a problem. I could see just fine close-up. Teaching all day leaves little room for needing to read things far away.
But as the years grew on, I decided it would be wise to get my eyes checked out by a professional. I was paying for the insurance, so why not?
I’ve never realized I was so blind.
As I walked into the Optomitrist’s office, I was nervous. My hands were shaking and my heart grew fearful. I knew that my eyes probably weren’t great, but I’d avoided the problem for decades. I could see well enough.
The eye doctor chuckled.
“Amber, you’re near-sighted. You probably have been for some time. Did you have a clue? Or were you having trouble seeing?”
I smiled and looked at the floor.
“Here,” he said gently, placing a pair of frames before my eyes.
“This is blurry, right?” He nudged.
“Yeah,” I felt defeated.
“What about now?” He questioned.
I’d never seen more clearly.
Are you blind or deaf?
A few weeks after this eye appointment, I also went to the audiologist. No one tells you how you fall apart after twenty-five, but that’s how it’s felt! You can imagine how the appointment went.
I’ve known I haven’t been able to hear and see for a few years. I’m still in the process of trying to get hearing aids, but glasses have helped me to see when driving in the dark.
And I have to wonder, how many of us are walking around blind and unable to hear? We hear, but it’s not great. We can see, but it could be better. Can you relate?
With 20/20 vision or perfect ears, however, many of us may still have trouble hearing and seeing. How?
The Parable of the Sower
In Matthew chapter 13, Jesus teaches the Parable of the Sower. With beautiful illustrations, He frames the world as a farmer planting seeds. And while some seeds grow and flourish, many waste away, either planted in the wrong places, choked out, or given insufficient nutrients.
In response to this, however, His Disciples ask, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?” (Matthew 13:10, New International Version). And He profoundly replies, “Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them” (Matthew 13:11-12, New International Version).
The Passion Interpretation notes in verse 9, “If you’re able to understand this, then you need to respond” (Matthew 13:9, The Passion Translation). Or in other words, the one with ears to hear should use them.
Is it possible to have ears and be deaf? Is it possible to have eyes and be blind? Absolutely. And I’m not talking about people who truly are blind and deaf, either.
And as sad as it is, many of us today are more like the Pharisees and Sadducees than we’d like to admit.
We have ears, but are we really listening?
We have eyes, but do we see the world as Jesus would?
A Challenge to See the World Differently
Jesus’ Disciples could look at the world around them differently than those around them because they followed Jesus. He enabled them to see. And see not just with their eyes but hearts and the knowledge the Holy Spirit gave them.
“You’ve been given the intimate experience of insight into the hidden mysteries of the realm of heaven’s kingdom, but they have not. For everyone who listens with an open heart will receive progressively more revelation until he has more than enough. But those who don’t listen with an open, teachable heart, even the understanding that they think they have will be taken from them. That’s why I teach the people using parables, because they think they’re looking for truth, yet because their hearts are unteachable, they never discover it. Although they will listen to me, they never fully perceive the message I speak” (Matthew 13:11-13, The Passion Translation).
In other words, the ways of God and Jesus are only available to us because of the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit helps us understand things that can’t be understood by our own strength, knowledge, or wisdom without Him.
Jesus taught His Disciples to go beyond mere human intellect, and hunger and thirst for God’s Word with open hearts, hopeful eyes, and ears that listen to learn. We have to push beyond what we think and desire and tap into what He thinks and plans for us.
A Prayer to Hear and See
Today, and every day forward, I don’t want to be like the religious scholars who were too stubborn, blind, and deaf to change their ways. I don’t want to drive down a road and think I’m seeing when I’m truly blind. I don’t want to think I’m listening, only to realize I’ve been deaf and following my own ways and selfish choices all along.
Because these people will not inherit the Gospel.
These people will miss out on experiencing what Jesus has in store for their full potential.
The book of Isaiah once described them perfectly in historical times:
“Although they listen carefully to everything I speak, they don’t understand a thing I say. They look and pretend to see, but the eyes of their hearts are closed. Their minds are dull and slow to perceive, their ears are plugged and are hard of hearing, and they have deliberately shut their eyes to the truth. Otherwise they would open their eyes to see, and open their ears to hear, and open their minds to understand. Then they would turn to me and I would instantly heal them” (Matthew 13: 14-15, The Passion Translation; Isaiah 6:9-10 is the originally quoted passage).
Purify our hearts, O Lord, and make us clean.
Renew the right Spirits within us that look to you for vision, a sound mind, and ears that hear to make the changes asked of us.
We don’t want hearts that are closed and ears that are plugged.
We don’t want to miss out on this life you have for us, just because we are too stubborn to see and ignorant to hear.
We turn to you, God.
You can help us see.
Only You can help us hear.