A few months ago I read Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson. It’s a haunting story about a family and how tragedy met them over a few generations, shaping their lives. As the sorrows compiled, the family home grew more cluttered, falling into disrepair. What was familiar and common to the family was an obvious mess to the neighbors, who didn’t live in its midst. Outsiders have a way of viewing things that insiders lack.
When I got married, I brought with me assumptions about the sort of person a wife should be. Most of it was subconscious and internalized, but still, these notions built a standard I judged myself by. One of those was the notion that tending house was my full responsibility. What I discovered was that Mike is naturally good at some housekeeping things and I am naturally good at others. For example, Mike is much more likely to keep up on general cleaning and maintenance, whereas I’m much more gifted at maximizing the space in the dishwasher (it’s so similar to Tetris). Together, we keep our home from mirroring the one in Robinson’s novel.
I’m grateful for Mike’s bent for many reasons, but particularly because I’m fail to notice things that are out of place. A week or so ago, I noticed that a decorative owl on our mantle was not where I’d like it to be. How long had it been like that? My fear is that it’s been askew since I took down Christmas decor back in January. Basically, I can move through my house lost in my thoughts and miss really seeing it. It’s not that my eyes are shut; it’s more so that my seeing is focusing on other things.
Maybe this is similar to how our spiritual sight is limited when we’re in a season of zombie-like faith. It’s not that we aren’t seeing anything at all; it’s that we simply miss things, even things that other people readily see. Such dim sight in spiritual things isn’t new. God identified this problem in His people, telling Isaiah that they “keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive” (Isaiah 6:9).
Spiritual sight is the ability to perceive truth—to perceive God’s involvement in and around us. Without this spiritual sense, we miss things that are happening in our midst. We also miss the clutter, the disrepair. Seeing rightly helps us move toward spiritual health and to wake us up from zombie-like faith.
This is the solution Jesus proposes for the lukewarm in Revelation 3: “I counsel you to buy from me… salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see.” Eyes that are not seeing what really there need healing, adjustment. The IVP New Testament Commentary Series says this:
He must change his perception of what is real, and above all his perception of himself—hence the salve to put on your eyes, so you can see (v. 18). If he sees himself as rich and in need of nothing when in fact he is desperately poor and miserable, there is indeed something terribly wrong with his eyes!
What’s weird is that you can’t see what you can’t see. So you have to trust the word of someone else who says you are not seeing things in full. That takes faith, doesn’t it? Admitting that you may not be seeing everything there is to see? Admitting the possibility that although you see, you do not perceive? That’s the sort of admission and prayer I need to practice.