When I was a boy, cereal boxes sometimes came with surprises inside. One time, we opened the box to find a paper written with line upon line of random letters. We could make no sense of those lines without the decoding device which we found at the bottom of the box and which told us to only count every third letter. When we wrote down every third letter, understandable words and phrases appeared where we previously saw only gibberish. It is a rather crude metaphorical comparison to make with God come down, but in some respects, Jesus Christ is that decoding device for all of life’s experiences. Your ability to see all things–especially a quickly approaching new chapter to your life’s story–through him is the life work of your imaginative calling.
There are many resolutions worth making, but one of the most important is the resolution to start looking for God’s activity with God’s eyes. I believe that the Christian experience ultimately comes down to finding eyes for God–or, more accurately, being given eyes for God–because the vision of God brings with it a taste for God. As Simone Weil poignantly said, the Christian religion is nothing less than a looking.
For this reason, the medieval theologians practiced what Lucy Shaw calls a Christocentric consciousness. They watched for ways in which everything pointed to Christ. They saw layers of meaning in Scripture and in the world: the literal layer, the allegorical layer, the tropological or moral layer, and the anagogic layer. Here’s how it works: On a literal level, a visible thing is a visible thing. On an allegorical level, that visible thing might point to another visible thing. On a moral level, that visible thing might indicate the right thing to be done and the anagogical level leads us from the visible thing into a picture of the invisible divine life, or heavenly life, and our participation in it. What does a Christoncentric consciousness look like it practice? A rock is a rock (literal) whose stability and strength point to the Christ (allegorical) who is strong and stable and upon whom we should build our house (moral) and who will be our firm foundation against the storms and tides of life up to, and through, eternity (anagogic). This consciousness is impossible apart from a love for God and that is why this kind of outlook best satisfies our primordial search for meaning. We are moved by something deeper than Truth, we are moved by love. And love takes many forms. It takes the form of people and what they make. It takes the form of where we go and what we do. It takes the form of song and story. For this very reason, Christ came not simply as “the way” and “the Truth,” but he came as “the life” too. He came to transform the whole person.
In all your investment in and observation of people, remember that the generative life demands a healthy soul from you and a healthy soul demands a sanctified imagination. The creative imagination is participation in the divine life and for this reason, the imagination’s health is vital to the soul. Practice the searching gaze that looks beyond and beneath the ocular vision to see what God sees so that you can come to know that “there is more that rises in the morning than the sun, and more that shines in the night than just the moon” (Rich Mullens, “If I Stand”). Let us not marry our hands to perpetual agitation or run to the whistle of money (Theodore Roethke, “The Lost Son”). Instead, let us nurture the sacred fire by marinating in God’s holy word, practicing a sensitivity to the Holy Spirt, and holding an ongoing conversation with the Lord. If we practice this sightedness all of our days, then we will have the eyes of Simeon who saw God! in a baby overlooked by everyone else. Epiphany!
Take earnest care, then, to see as God sees, to know deeper things than simply facts, and to train the temperament of your mind to a steadiness that faithfully reflects the Scriptures which team with story and logic, mystery and the comprehensible, the ambiguous and the straightforward, history and prophecy. As you do so, remember that God reveals himself to you when and how he wants. Eyes of faith do not usually develop overnight. Remember, also, that we see but through a dim window right now and our eyesight will never be clear until we see Jesus face-to-face; we know only part of the great divine puzzle, but someday we will know as fully as we are known by God now (I Cor. 13:12).
This coming year, may God sanctify our vision and lead us in the way everlasting (Psalm 139:24). May he open our eyes to see him at work and may he give us the contentment we need to take one day at a time, one step at a time.