Eric Scalise, Ph.D.
What do you see when you look at your husband or wife? Your son or daughter? The next door neighbor when she pulls out of her driveway? The bank teller or postal clerk? The homeless man sleeping on a bench or the cashier at the grocery store? It’s easy to take in these everyday scenes, filter them through our own busy lives, and move to the next thing on our checklists. Life can be that way… so much happening all around us, but more often than not and like the iceberg, most is hidden beneath the surface. Yet, God notices the sparrow when it falls to the ground and even counts the very number of hairs on our heads (Matt. 10:29-30).
When the Lord asked the prophet Samuel to go to the house of Jesse, it was to find and anoint His choice for the next king of Israel (1 Sam. 16), but God also taught him an important lesson that day. After sizing up each of Jesse’s seven sons… looking at their stature, their wisdom, their bearing, and leadership potential… God kept saying, “No, he’s not the one.” There was an eighth… a ruddy and handsome boy with beautiful eyes out tending the sheep. His name was David and God said, “Arise, anoint him; for this is he.” Ever the Master Teacher, God reminded Samuel that, “God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (vs. 7).
Years ago, I was asked to speak to a large group of pastors at the Billy Graham School of Evangelism. I was younger, less sure of myself, and a feeling a bit apprehensive about the task at hand. What in the world could I possibly share with a group of men who collectively, had probably preached every sermon topic under the sun? It was only an hour or so before I was going to be introduced on stage, and I was still wrestling with what to say. The Holy Spirit was not downloading anything and some of you reading this know that exact feeling when you have had to speak before an audience.
Needless to say, I was getting a little anxious and frustrated… to be honest, I was a bit irritated with God. Then I heard a divine, “Shhhhhh,” followed by instructions to get out a piece of paper. Pen in hand, I thought to myself, “Finally!” The Lord then said to me, “Tell these pastors to look at others like I do.” I quickly wrote down the words and then like a baby bird with its beak wide open, I waited for more. God repeated the statement and I replied, “Yes Lord. Thank you, but what else I am supposed to say? I have forty-five minutes to fill.” Once again, God goes, “Shhhhhh,” and gave me the same instruction. Only this time, He gave me the following:
The world saw only that Jesus was eating with tax gatherers and sinners… but Jesus saw people in need of the great physician.
The world saw only a blind beggar named Bartimaeus, shouting above the crowd and disturbing those around Him… but Jesus saw a man reaching out in faith and in need of mercy.
The world saw only a group of children, annoying the Master… but Jesus saw their innocent trust and a kingdom that belonged to such as these.
The world saw only a crooked tax gatherer named Zacchaeus, becoming rich through the suffering of others… but Jesus saw a man ready to be broken with an act of repentance.
The world saw only the crowds pressing in on Him from all sides… but Jesus sensed the touch of His garment by a trembling woman.
The world saw only five loaves and two fish to feed so many… but Jesus saw a great multitude hungry and in need of compassion.
The world saw only as woman caught in the very act of adultery and deserving of condemnation… but Jesus saw a daughter in need of forgiveness.
The world saw only a robber crucified as a common thief… but Jesus saw a lost soul worth dying for.
I sat in silence for a moment, chastened by the words I slowly read. “Lord, I get it now. You see things so differently. You see what I often fail to see.” Then, with a more humble posture, I asked, “God, can you please put this into today’s language for me? I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but our tax people really don’t climb trees anymore, and we’re more likely to serve cheeseburgers than bread and fish.” God had me write this down:
The world sees only a man dying with AIDS and whispers that he probably deserves that… but Jesus sees someone who’s alone and afraid of dying.
The world sees only the alcoholic, lost and groping in the darkness… but Jesus sees someone whose life can be restored.
The world sees only the Christian leader who has stumbled badly and fallen before the eyes of so many… but Jesus sees someone who is worthy of His grace and help in time of need.
The world sees only the prostitute standing on the corner… but Jesus sees a little girl who was sexually abused and desperate for a father’s love.
The world sees only the rebellious teenager wanting to end his life… but Jesus sees someone who has never been accepted and starving for approval.
The world sees only the color of someone’s skin… but Jesus sees a vessel fearfully and wonderfully made, created in the image of Almighty God.
The world sees only the woman who is always anxious and depressed… but Jesus sees the single mom struggling to survive and needing the support and understanding of others.
The world sees only the throwaways in prison, the crippled, the poor and the homeless… but Jesus sees precious souls who have yet to be invited to the banqueting table.
As husbands and wives, dads and moms, friends and neighbors, coworkers and supervisors, we often have the opportunity to serve as God’s optometry assistants. In other words, we help correct vision. Some who we come into contact with are nearsighted – they can only see themselves and are oblivious to the needs around them. Others are farsighted – they only see everyone else’s problems and deficiencies and not the “log” in their own eyes. And some, frankly, are just plain blind.
As we walk with God, there are also times when He bids you and me to have our own checkups. After an annual eye exam, my prescription needed to be adjusted and when I put on my new glasses, I was amazed at how much clearer things became. If we allow God to give us His vision, imagine how we might do marriage a little differently? Or parenting? Or church? To see what God sees—to look beyond the surface and see the heart—offers us a greater capacity to be His hands, His feet, His grace, His love, and His voice, to our families and to a world that so desperately needs to find its way. May God give us joy in the journey.
Eric Scalise, Ph.D., is the former Vice President for Professional Development with the American Association of Christian Counselors, as well as a current consultant and their Senior Editor. He is also the President of LIV Enterprises & Consulting, LLC, and a Licensed Professional Counselor and Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist with more than 36 years of clinical and professional experience in the mental health field. Specialty areas include professional/pastoral stress and burnout, combat trauma and PTSD, marriage and family issues, leadership development, addictions, and lay counselor training. He is an author, a national and international conference speaker, and frequently consults with organizations, clinicians, ministry leaders, and churches on a variety of issues.