The Eyes of Your Heart

13 Jul

Ephesians 1:18 isn’t one of those bible verses you see on coffee mugs and bumper stickers. It’s not one of those Jeremiah moments proclaiming that the Lord has plans for you to prosper, or an Ecclesiastes musing on the ups and downs of life’s seasons. It’s not commonly quoted. In fact, you may have never heard it: “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, the riches of his glorious.”

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This was the first scripture I ever laid eyes on that appeared as Living Word. I have always considered words as living, powerful entities that shaped our souls. Forget the Bible. I believed the words of Shakespeare, Rilke and Whitman were Holy. The Bible was either a great work of literature, or all literature was God.

I didn’t know if Ephesians was in the Old or New Testament. I didn’t know the Ephesians were a group of individuals living in Ephesus and that “Ephesians” was an epistle addressed to them. All I knew was that a few weeks after my mother died by suicide, a pastor I knew only as the guy who surfed and wore flip flops, responded to an email from me saying, “I will pray for you. Check out this verse: “Eph. 1:18 I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you.” I don’t know what induced that pastor to send me the verse. I didn’t identify as Christian, and I had never read the Bible. I just know that when I read the verse out loud, I felt something quicken within me. I felt a sense of hope at a moment of profound grief over my mother’s death. Sure, I might have felt better because someone reached out to me in a moment of isolation via an email but this was more than a warm fuzzy from a stranger. These words spoke directly to me from God.

What was the hope to which I was being called? What eyes of my heart needed to be enlightened?

This verse ushered in a profound calling to learn more about God. I’d always believed in a higher entity but I had never believed in Jesus. On the contrary, I found much of Christianity a major turn off. I had studied and honored every religion but Christianity (and I still honor those faith traditions).

Life doesn’t get any easier just because you have a spiritual awakening and suddenly sense the presence of God. In fact, life can get harder. You still have the same trials and tribulations and just when you think you’re good with God or that God is Santa Claus, life can pull you back into that existential pit of hell that is part of being human.

It is the anniversary of my mother’s suicide on Saturday. She wrote me a suicide note on July 11th and the police called me on July 18th. Although I have healed much since her death, and her passing ushered in a period of respite from constant worry, fear and crisis, this year has been the hardest of my life. This year, for the first time, revealed to me the despair that made my mom finally say, “I can’t do it anymore. I’m throwing the towel in on life.”

Why would anyone want to throw the precious gift of life away? Why would anyone abort the breath, love, talent, and vitality we have to offer, particularly when living in America in relative safety with food, clothing and shelter? To do so threatens to negate the impact of genocide, rape, poverty, violence, human trafficking, racism, famine and disease. Yet many Americans are starving from isolation, lack of belonging, lack of purpose, and lack of authentic connection. Many young Americans are also starving from physical, emotional and sexual abuse. These too can kill you. Broken dreams, too many years of talking to the walls at night instead of pillow talk next to a living breathing human, too many years of fractured relationships, deaths, betrayals, violations, and loss, can kill. But what is this hope to which we are called?

Last night at that same church, seven years later, during the anniversary period of my mom’s death, a different pastor ended worship with that same verse. It’s not like pastors go around quoting Ephesians 1:18. It’s not a common occurrence. It’s not biblical slang/jargon. But I heard those words and thought, WOW. “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order to know that hope to which you are called.”

God’s vision for our lives is so much bigger than we ourselves can see. He wants so much more for us. The hope is life in Him. It’s not in fame, fortune, or glamour. It’s not in a house, marriage, kids, and a white picket fence. It’s not in how many likes you get on FB or how well you do in the stock market. The latter are fine and wonderful things but the only true hope – the only hope that makes sense – is this much grander element. The only real salvation comes when we reach out to our neighbor and lay our lives down in one way, shape, or another. I’m not talking about being a doormat, co-dependent, or a martyr. I’m talking about making an active choice to love one’s neighbor more than oneself. There is a difference between the two. One is active and conscious; the other passive, unconscious and perhaps stupid and/or manipulative.

God has saved my life many times. Not because I’m some ignorant fool who has to make up a God in order to get by in life. I’m plenty strong and resilient, thank you very much. I am indebted to God because in the darkest times of my life, when I have been on the floor in a hot mess of despair and anguish, my eyes were enlightened to a hope beyond my reckoning. Beyond my vision. Beyond my time table. But nonetheless to a hope far greater than I. It was the same hope that hours after the police called me, informing me of my mom’s death, I knew that she was finally okay. The nightmare had passed. For, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.” Revelation 21:4.

If you have to bow your head to the ground every hour of the day to feel this hope, do it. While life can be profoundly beautiful, joyous and ecstatic, even those thrills can pale in the face of God, and those earthly delights can certainly change in the blink of an eye. But this hope to which we are called, puts light in the dark, puts joy in the midst of tears. It does not wave a magic wand and solve human created situations, but it is so much bigger and so much more loving than we could ever fathom.

It is redemptive. It is salvation. It is every story that has ever been written. It is creation itself.

2 Responses to “The Eyes of Your Heart”

  1. spkliewer July 14, 2015 at 2:12 am #

    an amazing verse, and some very profound reflections on how it has touched your heart. Thank you my friend

  2. lisesletters July 14, 2015 at 3:17 am #

    Thanks, Stephen. It’s a great verse for so many different reasons.

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