Free to see

Published 11:48 am Wednesday, January 2, 2019

by Charles Qualls

Elizabeth and I have enjoyed the new rhythm of doing Advent and Christmas with our congregation here in Franklin these last two years. Before that, we were beholden to two schedules that never really matched up. 

As a school librarian for 11 years, she never really lived it up on her long Christmas break from school because I couldn’t go anywhere. So, she would do things like run errands, have doctor appointments and eye exams during those days while I worked. 

One year, I kidded her terribly because the font on her electronic reader was getting larger and larger, which was leading to a lot of “clicking” as she would change pages more often than I was used to.

I looked over once and saw her with one pair of magnifying readers on top of her regular glasses. Soon thereafter, she used part of her Christmas break for an exam and new glasses. So it was of interest to me that I heard about a group of volunteers who participated in a Harvard study.

They were simply asked to read a standard looking eye-test chart. Except that on this eye-test, the Harvard people had reversed the normal flow of the chart. Rather than start with the larger letters and progress to the smaller, these readers started with the smaller and moved toward the larger.

The theory was that that most of us assume that as the smaller print begins we simply can’t read it as well. So, we stop sooner than we might need to. Sure enough, people in the study were able to read farther into the small print than normal because they could see the pay-off of the larger print coming.

Another experiment took advantage of the belief that pilots have good eyesight. College students in the ROTC were brought into a flight simulator, given fatigues to wear, and told to fly the simulator. They did simple flight maneuvers, then did an eyesight test by reading markings on the wings of planes ahead.

A control group of ROTC students was put in the same conditions, but they were told the simulator was broken, and that they should just pretend to fly the plane. The people who had dressed and performed just like pilots, as opposed to those who simply pretended, saw 40 percent better.

I liked the note in the article where these two studies were written up. They said that “These findings, along with others from the lab, lead them to question how many of our limits are of our own making.”

In other words, what we free ourselves to see is a powerful shaper of how we experience life. In Luke 2: 25-38, first Simeon and then Anna had powerful encounters with Jesus’ family as they brought the baby Christ to the Temple. 

Because they could see, these early witnesses to the presence of Immanuel (“God with us”) actually recognized the baby for what he was. They were free to see, because of the condition of their spirits.  Well, that and the choices they had made to believe. 

Do you know what the name “Simeon” means in Hebrew? It means “God has heard.” As in, God has heard the cries of a people. God has heard the need for intervention among Creation.

God has heard the plight of a people who needed to be redeemed. God had made promises, based on the needs that were apparent.

Readers of this story will notice two reactions to their encounters with holy family. First, Simeon made a confession of sorts as to whom this baby was. He essentially gave over to God a readiness, a completeness of his aged life since he had now seen the promised Messiah.

Anna went and began to tell anyone who would listen that God’s promised one had been delivered. She shared this news such that she became only the second biblical woman to be labeled a “prophetess.” 

God is still in the business of doing new things. Big things. We will not change that a whole lot whether we see or cannot see. But when we free ourselves to see, then we do have a chance to be a part of what God is doing.

God can still do big things. I wonder in a new year what freeing myself to see really means? And, for you? I don’t know about you.

But, I’m going to try to do what these two models showed us. Keep on showing up and watching for God to act. Until I know what my role is and what I’m supposed to do.

DR. CHARLES QUALLS is senior pastor at Franklin Baptist Church. Contact him at 562-5135.