May 22 2011

What It Takes to See God

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.)