I first prayed the prayer that is changing my life under the fluorescent lights of a Walmart return line. Two weeks ago, I was preparing for our trip to California and was scurrying around with a checklist and a multitude of last minute errands. As I’ve shared the past several months, my eyes have been tired and weary with weeping, discouraged and dimly seeing the world around me in greyscale. And waiting in the Walmart return line was simply not helping my heart.

If you haven’t noticed, return lines in general are not a party. No one likes to admit that the item they once purchased in hope has disappointed them. One’s very presence in such a line declares to the watching world, THIS PRODUCT FAILED ME INBIG WAY.” As forcefully cheerful pop music blared through the speakers (music that did not in any way represent the mediocre experience of my fellow returners) and people in sagging sweatpants shuffled through the automatic doors, I began to despair at the ugly ordinariness of it all. And I realized I was tired of seeing in grey — that I wanted this to change, but felt powerless to do so. 

So I silently asked, Father, Father, what do you see?” to the cadence of the repetitive children’s book, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?. And I think God did respond, because the answer was not something my grumpy soul could have conjured in that moment. As I looked at the people coming and going, the people working and buying and just trying to make it through another day, I sensed God say,

I see my children. If you worked here, if you spent time here, you would see them too. And you would have compassion for them. I am here, too.

I prayed back, You mean you are just as present here as you are in the throne room of heaven? If that is true, then baptize my eyes.”

What happened next was so very real that it is difficult to convey in words. After I prayed, a shivering thrill went through my body. I looked up from the dirty floor to find a world that was actually brighter — shining with Presence. For the first time in a long time, I felt excited to see. My dulled senses were sharpened and my ears immediately tuned in to the conversation happening in front of me. At the return register, an older woman with a receipt in hand was protesting the injustice of being charged for something she did not purchase. 

I was charged $14.98 for these Great Value donuts, but I never purchased $14.98 worth of donuts! (I did, however, purchase the $6 worth of donuts on the item line above.) But I did not purchase that many donuts.”

The Walmart employees were baffled. Apparently, there is no clear return protocol for Customer does not know where extraneous donuts came from.” After much whispered conferring, they decided to believe the indignant woman and returned her $14.98 in honor of the donuts she never ate. This exchange greatly amused me. As the satisfied customer left and it was my turn, I decided to risk being playful. 

I approached the counter, receipt in hand, and gravely told the two employees, Um, I never purchased these donuts.” They froze. Looks of terror and confusion swept across their face until I smiled, and we all began laughing. You have a great sense of humor,” one of them said.” The other woman chimed in, Now want donuts!” We then proceeded to share our favorite donut flavors with one another as they processed my simple return. As I left, I felt simply giddy with the joy and presence of God — a joy made even sweeter because it was sheer grace. 

Then I came face to face with a hunched Walmart greeter with sorrowful eyes and dirt-creased hands who dutifully asked, 

How are you doing today?” 

I responded, I’m doing well! How are you?”

I’m doing…okay.” he hesitantly replied.

Typically, I would have taken him at his word and said, I’m glad” before briskly walking away. But this time, something gave me pause. My newly baptized eyes saw that he needed compassion, and the Spirit of God helped me slow down enough to ask, You hanging in there?”

Yeah…I think so,” he said.

It doesn’t sound like much, but there was a sense of mutual caring and connection that was laced with Presence. This was a man I have passed countless times on my entrances and exits from the store, but I never really saw him until that moment. And what I saw was a tender, hidden heart that just wants life to be a little brighter.

As I discovered that day, baptize my eyes is a prayer that God longs to answer, because it is the joy of God to help us look at God’s world with eyes of wonder, hope, and love. I believe this is what Paul is describing when he writes to the Ephesian church, 

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.
(Ephesians 1:18 – 19a)

I especially love how Eugene Peterson describes this in The Message:

I ask — ask the God of our Master, Jesus Christ, the God of glory — to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is he is calling you to do, grasp the immensity of this glorious way of life he has for his followers, oh, the utter extravagance of his work in us who trust him — endless energy, boundless strength!

Baptize my eyes is a prayer that changes nothing about what we see and everything about how we see. It was the same ordinary Walmart before and after my prayer, but what changed is the gift of hope I received to see the glory in it all. When we ask, God uses the mundane to open our eyes. But it has taken me so long to ask. For years, I have longed to escape the mundane. Now, I am gradually learning to look for seeds of glory tucked within it. After all, if Jesus used earthy elements to heal his Beloved and change the world, could not those same elements teach me about the heart of God?

Do you remember how Jesus healed the man who was blind from birth?

With dirt and spit.

…He spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. Go,’ he told him, wash in the Pool of Siloam’ (this word means Sent). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.”
(John 9:6 – 7)

He came home seeing.

I cannot imagine anything more base and ordinary than the dust of the earth and his own saliva, but these are the very elements Jesus chose to redeem the blind man’s sight. Doesn’t this tell us something about how God works? Jesus could have used powerful elements such as thunder and lightning or wind and fire, but instead he chose what was right in front of him. Jesus baptized the blind man’s eyes with the mundane, and the man went home seeing. 

Friends, this is possible for us too. There are circumstances we’ve endured for so long that it seems things will never change at all: mental suffering, sickness, loneliness, questions of calling, broken relationships, doubt, and feeling distant from God. What can change is how we see our lives and the world around us. It feels important to clarify that this isn’t a mere attitude adjustment or a rose-colored way of seeing. No, the sight that Jesus gives us is true sight. It is the vision to see the world both as it is and as it could be. It is seeing with eyes that recognize the kingdom of heaven right in the middle of the kingdom of earth. It is a way of living that values everything we see around us as a gateway into Presence. It is seeing with the eyes of the heart — a posture that has the power to re-orient us towards hope. And it is hope alone that births us into newer, deeper questions such as:

-Is it possible to discover glimmers of glory shining right alongside our darkness and pain?
-Could it be that the most broken and boring elements of our lives are the very things with which God longs to baptize our sight?
-What if God is not tricking us or withholding goodness from us, but is actually eager to help us see as he sees?

Baptized seeing will change nothing about our circumstances and everything about who and how we are in the midst of them. This is an invitation into a journey with God, the first step of which is asking, Jesus, Jesus, what do you see?”

Oh God of sun and moon, of thunder and lightning, of dirt and saliva, baptize our eyes.

Amen.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Essay used with permission from The Behold Blog by Katelyn J. Dixon.ß

Text First Published May 2022 · Last Featured on Renovare.org May 2022

New Online Course: Living Inside the Lord’s Prayer

Author, teacher, and songwriter Carolyn Arends pulls back the veil of familiarity to throw fresh light on the brilliantly succinct prayer Jesus taught his disciples to pray.

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