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

📚 The 2022 – 23 Ren­o­varé Book Club

This year’s nine-month, soul-shap­ing jour­ney fea­tures four books, old and new, prayer­ful­ly curat­ed by Ren­o­varé. Now under­way and there’s still time to join.

View Selections & Learn More >