With the Eyes of Your Heart Enlightened
If only I could have embraced all of my life’s experiences with the “eyes of my heart enlightened!"
Ephesians 1:17-18 "I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints ... "
One of the supervisory roles I’ve fulfilled several times is chaperoning mission trips for the youth of our church. My last youth trip, in 2012, was to McLaughlin, South Dakota, where we served the Lakota people on a Standing Rock reservation through a program called YouthWorks. We had two adults, myself and our Youth Director, Christine, and six teenagers. There were several other groups serving the same week we were there. Our day was broken into three segments with the morning and afternoon sessions immersed in service and the evening segment devoted to worship and team building. The YouthWorks team organized our five-day service opportunities, which included a variety of ways to support this reservation which was sorely in need of help in a multitude of ways. There was a day-camp offering activity to local children, there were dilapidated buildings in need of renovation, there was a ten-acre orchard in need of weeding and pruning, and there was a veteran’s center where we engaged in activities with the resident veterans. The Bible passage theme for the week was Romans 12:1-12: ... I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.... Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer.
I include this here as it is pertinent to the experience that I am going to share with you. One of our first assignments was to write down on a bracelet one way we wanted to worship God through our actions in the upcoming week. We were asked to keep in mind that worship is about serving our purpose and to be mindful of our attitude behind what we were doing. I chose to write: Open my heart to see with Jesus’ eyes. I had no idea what a powerful intention it would end up being.
This story is about Gerald. Gerald was one of the adult natives who battled substance abuse and was known for his hot temper and erratic behaviors. On our first day, my group was assigned to the Kids Club, which was held in the park across the street from our center. I loved working with children, so I was excited for this opportunity. However, given my organized, controlling self, I wasn’t prepared for the unstructured nature of the day. First, we had 20 to 25 children who poured in from the surrounding area. Some of them came and went freely; many of them were victims of fetal alcohol syndrome and had very short attention spans; all of them craved attention. Our method for checking the kids in was to mark the back of their hands with numbers (indicating the city quadrant they lived in) and in colors that placed them in their age group. Many of the children eluded getting checked-in due to the imbalance of adult to child ratio. About midway through the afternoon, our YouthWorks counselor, Sam, approached me and cautioned me to keep my eye on a shirtless man (Gerald) who was slouched up against a tree about 50 yards away from my group. Fear began to creep in as the teacher in me tried desperately to keep things organized, all while I kept a watchful eye on our potential danger. Needless-to-say, I lost control when one child announced she needed to go potty. At the same time, many of the children needed assistance as they finished their project and one little girl said, “My brother and his friend just left.” Yikes! As I sent one of our youth to alert the YouthWorks counselor to our situation, I noticed that Gerald was gone. Panic-stricken, I scanned the park and couldn’t find him. I ended the day humbled and feeling as though I had failed in my leadership role.
Day two was better as only a handful of children came and the raucous boys didn’t show up. There wasn’t any sign of Gerald for most of the day, and the whole Kids Club flowed perfectly. About a half hour before the activity time ended, Sam engaged the children in a circle game. Twenty minutes into the game, Gerald plopped himself down just outside of the circle, a stone's-throw away from me. Barely able to get his words out, he looked at me and asked if he could take us to see Sitting Bull. Fortunately, Sam intervened and gracefully declined Gerald’s offer. I was grateful for Sam’s presence and ability to channel the situation.
Day three, my group was assigned to a worksite which needed a lot of prep work. Two hours into our day, we decided it would be best for me to take the youth back to our center for lunch, since the adults needed time to figure out a plan of action. As we sat enjoying our lunch under the cooling shade of a tree, Gerald once again plopped himself down, this time asking for a glass of water. One of the counselors obliged him and brought him a snack as well. Gerald’s words were a little easier to comprehend, but his eyes were glassy and distant. He questioned me about a scripture that talked about Jesus speaking to the people who were supposed to be representing the church but were not welcoming others. At that moment, I looked down at the bracelet I had made on the first day and the words struck me, “Open my heart to see with Jesus’ eyes.'' My heart was racing and fear tried to take hold, but I surrendered into the flow and responded to Gerald, “Ah, yes. The story about the hypocrites.” Gerald nodded and began to share a part of his story; how the Christians were responsible for the death of his grandmother, how his people have suffered, how he wants to change things, how people don’t understand. He told me he didn’t want to harm anyone. I simply listened and nodded. It was all I could do; it was all God called me to do. My heart opened with compassion for this broken man as I surrendered to see with Jesus’ eyes.
I had been caught up in fear and had neglected to pay attention to the scripture for the week from Romans 12:3: For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment. It took a listening ear and an open heart for me to see Gerald as a fellow soul-journer on this path called life. Each opportunity we encounter brings us closer to “what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.” The beloved essence of Tamarack reminded me of this:
My dear child, you are living with one foot in each world, three-dimensional and beyond. Once you fully place both feet in the beyond, your internal struggle between the planes will be done. You are right. This all comes down to trust. Once you fully embrace that you are truly a magnificent being of Divine love, nothing anyone else says will matter because you will not have doubts anymore. Your self-confidence will be fully engaged and you will be able to stand in your power and allow others to stand in theirs. This is clearly a lesson for you to accept others where they are, without compromising where you are. Listen and learn from your seasoned teachers.
Surrendering to seeing Gerald through the eyes of compassion and understanding rather than fear and judgment was the key to unlock the higher vibrations of unconditional love and compassion. This heart-opening experience left a profound imprint on me. I believe this lesson was clearly brought forward at a time when I needed to surrender into a deeper level of trust. It is a good reminder for me to revisit this life-changing experience.
One of my seasoned teachers said that he was giving up judgment for Lent. I really connected with this idea and so I set the intention to do the same. The phrase "with the eyes of your heart enlightened" kept rolling around in my mind. It is through this intention that I am deeply reflecting on the various ways judgment arises within. Accepting others where they are involves completely accepting ourselves where we are, wholly sustained by the love of God.
Are there moments in your life that have opened you to see through the lens of compassion and understanding?
What lower vibrations were preventing you from being in the flow of surrender?
How can the rhythms of life teach us to surrender to the presence of God's love?