God sees everything with 20/20 vision

By Julianne Stanz | Special to The Compass | November 11, 2020

“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 …” — Eph. 1:18

Sitting in a seminar at the back of the room, I nestled into my chair ready to begin note-taking. The topic was prayer and the presenter was a spiritual giant whose books I had read for many years. After introducing himself, the presenter switched on his PowerPoint presentation, but the images were out of focus and the words blurred between each other. Blinking, I turned to my friend and whispered, “Gosh, I hope he sharpens up that screen, I can hardly read the notes from back here.” My friend turned to me and merrily replied, “The screen looks perfect to me, maybe it’s your eyes that need adjusting?!”

That’s when I became aware, for the first time in my life, that I could not clearly see what was in front of me. Later, an ophthalmologist confirmed that I needed glasses, like most people at “my stage of life,” he reminded me. Ouch. “But I can read just fine up close,” I exclaimed to my husband, grumpily, later on. But after trying my new glasses on, I had to acknowledge, the world looked a whole lot clearer and sharper than without them.

20/20 is considered the gold standard when it comes to vision. When an eye doctor tests for 20/20 vision, what is being measured is visual acuity, which is the clarity and sharpness of your vision of objects 20 feet away. Physically, many of us don’t have 20/20 vision. Spiritually speaking, none of us have 20/20 vision. We cannot always clearly see what is right in front of us, and we cannot know what these final days of 2020 hold for us.

2020 has been an interesting year on many levels — politically, societally, globally and locally. Many of us feel like we are going through this year holding our breath, just waiting for the next shoe to drop. But what if 2020 is clarifying our vision so that we can see more clearly and focus on who and what is important, and what’s not so important?

The popular expression, “hindsight is 20/20,” reminds us that it is much easier to look back into the past and think about what we should have done. What is obvious to us at a later date is not always obvious to us in the moment. When we look back, we seem to do so with a wiser, more mature perspective.

But rather than projecting into the future or looking back into the past, let’s focus on growing closer to God in the here and now. It is from the present moment that the future is built. Indeed, the Danish philosopher, Søren Kierkegaard, noted that “life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forward.” It is from today, the present moment, that history books are written. 

When people look back at this time in the history of the world, what will they say about how we lived? What will they see in us, the Catholic Church? Will they see how we took care of the sick, the dying and how we protected the vulnerable? Will they see how we focused our vision on God and what he wants for our lives? Or will we sit with our weaknesses and refuse to move forward?

Just like you cannot read a book when it is an inch from your face, we often are not able to see ourselves clearly. Only God can do that. In the ophthalmologist’s office, the doctor noticed that one of my eyes was weaker than the other and made sure to prescribe lenses that corrected the deficiency. So, too, does God correct our flaws and weaknesses. If we remain open to him, he guides us in magnifying virtues and minimizing patterns of sin in our lives.

The good news is that we don’t have to live with the mindset of “hindsight is 2020,” but can begin today to ask for the gift of seeing who and what God wants us to notice and see.

God sees perfectly the dignity of each person who was created by him. He sees the anguish of those who suffer with anxiety, depression, addiction and violence. He appreciates every small, unnoticed act of heroic kindness lived out each day when sacrifices are made for others. God sees how you struggle and how you strive, and he loves you through it all. God sees everything with perfect 20/20 vision. As we approach Thanksgiving, let’s give thanks for the blessings that have come through this year, helping us to have “20/20 vision.”

Stanz is director of parish life and evangelization for the Diocese of Green Bay and author of “Start with Jesus: How Everyday Disciples Will Renew the Church” (Loyola Press).

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