I like watching clouds–especially the interplay of sun and clouds around sunrise or sunset–but clouds are not as common a sight where I live in Southern California as where I grew up in Oregon. (I’m talking big, fluffy white clouds here, so smog doesn’t count.) Sometimes, if I’m watching the sun peek from behind the clouds and trace their edges with fiery gold, when I turn my attention back to what’s in front of me, my eyes are momentarily dazzled by the brightness and it takes a second or two for them to adjust.
I’ve been reflecting this week on an old chorus that we sang in our worship service on Sunday. And this chorus seems to be speaking of a similar “dazzling” effect that leaves our eyes blind to other things. This is what it says:
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in his wonderful face;
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of his glory and grace.
Turn your thoughts upon Jesus
Think deep of His wonderful love
And the thoughts of sin and of self and strife
Will be lost in that rapture above.
This is a very different strategy than saying “Stop focusing on the things of this earth!” or “Don’t be so wrapped up in yourself!” Trying to directly quit focusing on something that our eyes and mind are drawn to is often impossible. But when our eyes are dazzled by something else or our mind is captured by a different thought, then those earthly, self-focused things are more likely to fade away.
Either way there is a turning that happens. Either I follow the inward-turning rut of my sinful autonomy from God, or I turn upward and outward toward God in trust and worship of Him. And which way I turn has much to do with my eyes and my thoughts–what I’m looking at and what I’m thinking about.
The author of Hebrews says much the same thing as this chorus when he writes of “fixing our eyes on Jesus” (Heb. 12:2) and “consider[ing] Him” (Heb. 12:3). And in 2 Corinthians 4:18, Paul says we are to “look, not at the things that are seen, but the things that are unseen.” In other words, we turn our eyes, and our thoughts, upon Jesus, in order to not lose heart.
This is a mellow chorus, which may give the impression that turning our eyes and thoughts on Jesus is something to be done stoically and calmly. However, I believe that loud laments and intense emotions could also accompany this kind of turning toward God, because that is what a lament does–it voices my complaint and need to God (rather than to myself).
So turn…and let your eyes be dazzled by the beauty of your God! He is good. He is merciful. He is holy.