From a Distance
Wearing glasses for the first time is a life changing experience, for when one sees clearly, transformation results.
I first saw in the 6th grade. That’s when my family discovered I was nearsighted and needed glasses. A working definition of nearsighted is “an ability to see up close but anything from a distance is a blur”. In fact my eyesight was so bad that I was declared legally blind with 20/400 and 20/800 in my left and right eyes respectively. I always thought the loss of vision happened when I had the measles at the age of eleven. That’s when my parents went out for the evening and I took advantage of the “home alone” opportunity by turning on the TV while sitting in a dark room. Today I know that’s an old wives tale, but my 11-year-old mind couldn’t get its hands around the sudden change in vision.
All I know is that when I put on the glasses, I could see the veins on the leaves of the trees across the street. What once was blurry and indistinct was clear and decipherable in an instant, through the miracle of a new lens.
Isn’t that how we are spiritually? When we see through an imperfect lens, life appears blurry and confused. Once we put on our spiritual lenses and know Jesus, we see the world through God’s eyes. Everything comes into focus.
One of my favorite songs is “From a Distance” by Bette Midler. With the voice of an angel, she sings of good and evil, light and dark, war and love. The theme of the song is that everything is as it should be that there’s a balance in the world and that God is in charge. The chorus reiterates that God is watching us – from a distance.
Even as a child I knew that God was watching – all the time he was watching. Kids have an uncanny way of knowing and feeling God’s presence. Perhaps that’s God’s gift to kids. My grandchildren often surprise me with their wisdom in this regard. Just the other night, as we were sang and prayed before bedtime, Lily asked me, “Marme, can God hear us?
“Yes”, I replied startled by the question.
“How”, she pressed.
“Good question”, I told her. “Scholars and theologians from time immemorial have asked the same question. They are no closer to the answer than we are. It’s a matter of faith. We just have to believe.”
That got me wondering just how close God really is, or better yet, how close we really are to Him?
Holy week, the time of Christ’s passion is a good time to challenge us in this regard. For rather than observing from a distance, we are reminded in an experiential way of Christ’s suffering. Maundy Thursday, the Foot Washing, the celebration of the Passover meal, and the Garden Vigil are good reminders that we may not be as close to God as we think, for even after Palm Sunday, when the people welcomed their king to Jerusalem and before he was taken before the Sannhedrin, Jesus shared a meal with his disciples and told them exactly what was about to happen.
We know that at the time of testing, the disciples fled. They left Jesus in the garden alone to face his accusers. Even those closest to him betrayed him. They could not even stay awake and keep watch for one hour. Rather than walking and watching with him, they chose experiencing the crucifixion from a distance.
Many people, including some disciples, experienced Jesus’ arrest, but they followed from a distance. All, except Peter, who never get close enough to be in danger. Even when allowed into the High Priest’s courtyard he kept his distance, observing but not coming to Jesus’ defense. When challenged he denied knowing Jesus at all.
Throughout the next 24 hours, the trials before Herod and Pilot, the scourging, the crown of thorns, the walk along the Via Delarosa, the crucifixion at Golgotha, they kept their distance, all except Mary, his mother, the disciple John, and some of the women.
What a thought to ponder. Reflection challenges those of us who still watch Jesus from a distance. Keeping ourselves safe from the fallout of persecution and crucifixion we never even venture into the courtyard. We fall away at the first sign of danger. I wonder how many of us would really go the distance, even to the cross, if called?
Scripture tells us that Mary, his mother, and John stood at the foot of the cross and watched his last breath. They didn’t watch from a distance; they stood there and watched every agonizing minute. No glasses needed here; it was way too graphic. But they stood firm to the end. Their steadfastness was an act of obedience and a statement of faith. Their behavior resulted in a confrontation of conscience for those who observed their actions.
Their devotion reminds me of the scene in “The King and I” when Deborah Kerr, Anna, confronts Yul Brynner, the King, as he set about the flogging of Tuptim, the beautiful slave girl who has run away. Anna refuses to leave, telling him she cannot believe he will do this evil thing. If he does he is a barbarian. Her words cut into his core, and he sees clearly through the lens of truth.
The same could be said of the centurion who observed Mary and John. He heard Jesus’ cry, he heard his words, he saw how he died. Mark 15:39 NIV reveals his conviction and transformation. “Surely this man was the Son of God.”
As we approach Mother’s Day let us remember that it was Jesus’ mother that went the distance. In the flesh it is usually our mothers who go the distance with us who are models and mentors. As we move into our own seasons, we too can be convectors of truth, merely by standing firm at the foot of the cross, for Jesus promises that we are not alone. “Lo I am with you always, even unto the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20 NIV
As I’ve aged and become a grandmother I do see more clearly, with or without glasses. My eyesight has improved, literally and spiritually. Currently I have 20/30 in the left eye, with the right moving to 20/400 – perfect myopic vision. Who can explain such a miracle?
As I meditate on the Easter Season and prepare for Ascension and Pentecost, I want to take a moment to put on my spiritual glasses and thank God for his plan of salvation. Surely I need his 20/20 vision if I am to share the gospel that Jesus was willing to go the distance for me. I want to learn from Mary how to stand firm, all the while giving thanks for my own mothers and all mothers who in their own ways stand firm and suffer for us.
So in 2010, let us make a vow to no longer be nearsighted. Let’s put on God’s glasses and see from a distance. No need for an eye test here. With God on our side we are 20/20 at its best.
Marty Norman is a wife, mother, and grandmother of five, who lives in Fort Worth, Texas. She is the author of “Generation G – Advice for Savvy Grandmothers Who Will Never Go Gray.” You can learn more about her at: www.martynorman.com, http://martynorman.blogspot.com, http://savvygrandmothers.blogspot.com.