There’s a wonderful filter nature photographers use called a polarizer. Like polarizing sunglasses they cut glare. This filter can be useful in a number of different situations. They can make clouds stand out in a sky, make the colors of fall foliage look more saturated, and removed unwanted glare on subjects. I used my polarizer to do each of these things on my recent trip to New England. In the picture you see to the left I used a polarizer to cut the glare on the surface of a tide pool so that the items below would be visible. Without a polarizer you would not be able to see the subject as clearly, as seen in the image below where the subject is only slighltly polarized.
In this blog Rob and I talk often about the possibility of seeing God more clearly in Creation. As I was photographing the tide pools in Acadia National Park I found myself thinking it would be nice if we had some kind of spiritual filter comparable to a polarizer, something that would help us see God below the surface of things. Perhaps there is such a filter. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” (Matthew 5:8) When our hearts are pure we are able to see through the glare created by sin or impurity and see God much more clearly.
I know it’s not a popular thing to talk about sin but the Bible reveals that sin affects each of our lives. The apostle Paul said, “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) He also indicated that “the wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23) It would appear that another one of sin’s “wages” is glare. Sin keeps us from seeing God in both Creation and others. It clouds our vision and prohibits a clear view God.
If we want to see more of God we can help ourselves by dealing with the sin we find in our lives. We will also benefit by striving for a pure heart, one that is truly focused on Christ. The result will be a truly “blessed” life, one where we are able to see God where we could not before.
(I took the three images above last week at a tide pool near Otter Cove in Acadia National Park.)
What would you think if you went to your eye doctor to have an eye examination and he or she proceeded to run an EKG on you? It probably wouldn’t make sense. What do the eyes have to do with the heart? Physically not much but in the spiritual life there is a close connection. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said “blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:8) Apparently only those whose hearts are pure have a chance of seeing God.
When Jesus said this he did not mean that here on earth we can actually see God with our own two eyes. That is not possible. God told Moses long before that no one could see Him and still live. There are, however, other ways of seeing and that is what Jesus was referring to in this beatitude. He was pointing to an intimate fellowship with God that is possible here and now for those whose hearts are pure.
The heart he had in mind was not the organ of our body that pumps blood throughout the circulatory system. For Jesus the heart was a symbol of one’s total personality. It was inclusive of mind, emotions and will and, therefore, the source of the motives, values and images which shape our life. We sometimes think of the heart as being the seat of emotions. For Jesus it represented much more; it encompassed one’s complete life or character.
Those who can see God are those whose entire life is pure. The word “pure” in this case means to be cleansed and washed. It is also used in the Bible to describe someone who is single-minded. A person is pure if there is no conflict of interest or loyalty in his or her life. A lot of us are not pure in heart because we have divided loyalties. We have yet to commit our lives fully to Christ. Having divided loyalties causes us to be cross-eyed. Our vision is blurred and as a result we cannot see or experience God as we might if we were more focused on Him.
Soren Kirkegaard once said “Purity of heart is to will one thing.” The one thing he said we must will is the will of God. When our hearts are focused primarily on God—and not a hundred different things–we are not cross-eyed but can see things clearly.
I believe all of this relates to seeing or experiencing God in Creation as well. If our hearts are not right—if they are not focused first and foremost on God—it is unlikely we will see God in Creation very often. If, on the other hand, we live lives where our focus is primarily on God then we will see the Creator throughout His Creation on a regular basis. What some of us need to experience more of God in Creation is not better eyesight but a purer heart. For that reason, perhaps we ought to pray with the Psalmist, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10) Truly blessed and joyful are the pure in heart for they shall see God.
(The top image is a cone flower I photographed in Tennessee. The bottom image is a wild rose I photographed in Olympic National Park.)
If you were out last night and the skies were clear you may have noticed a beautiful full moon. You may even have thought it looked bigger than usual. Actually it was. Last night we experienced what some have called a “super moon.” Because the moon was at the closest point it gets to the earth and it happened to be a full moon the view of our lunar neighbor was extra special last evening. It will be quite a while before the conditions are the same again so I hope you got to see it.
The moon has fascinated humans from the very beginning. It continues to be a source of fascination for me. Early in my life I dreamed of one day becoming an astronaut and flying to the moon. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were my heroes. Needless to say, my dream of becoming an astronaut never materialized.
For quite some time the moon has been a reminder to me of an important spiritual truth. In the Gospels Jesus indicated that he was “the light of the world” and in the Sermon on the Mount he went on to say “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16)
This passage raises an interesting question. Is Jesus the light of the world or are we? The answer in once sense is obvious; we both are. But there is certainly a difference in the light we share and the light Christ shared. Jesus, as the Son of God, shown with his own light. Our light, however, is derivative. We shine as the light of the world only as we reflect the light of Christ. It’s here where the moon helps us out. As every elementary school child learns, the moon has no light of its own; it simply reflects the sun’s light. In the spiritual life it is the same. We have no light to share of our own but we are able to be reflections of Christ’s light.
When I look up at the moon I’m often reminded of our calling to be “the light of the world” and how if I am to let my light shine at all I must remain close to the true Source of light and reflect his light to others. If we let things get between us and the Source of light we do not offer much of a reflection. It’s imperative that we remove anything that hinders Christ’s light from shining on us and from us. In a world filled with as much darkness as ours, I’m hoping there will be lots of “super moons” out there and that I can be one of them too.
(I took both of these images last night in my back yard.)