There is this scene in the movie Man Of Steel that deeply moves me. It is where a young Clark Kent is in school and his powers of x-ray vision and super hearing are coming in. He sees through people to their skeletons and hearts. He not only hears what he is supposed to hear, but the things people whisper, that they meant to keep hidden. And the sheer volume of it all is overwhelming to him.
I’m finding that there are people out there who have something of these abilities too. It is like they have a spiritual/emotional type of x-ray vision and super hearing. They see and hear pain in others. They are aware that there are deeper layers underneath almost everything we say and do, and they are tuned into this spiritual/emotional wavelength. It plays under the actual words of most conversations. It reveals itself in body language. It can hide in subtle facial expressions that are gone almost as quickly as they appear. It is cloaked in what isn’t said, in pauses, in deep breaths and in misty eyes that glance away. And they notice what others often miss. These are the people who pay attention to others in a way that isn’t always common.
I think Jesus was speaking about these “tuned-in” people when He said in Matthew 13:16, ” But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear.” Because people whose ears are acutely tuned into and aware of the pain of others, are often acutely tuned in to the voice of God as well. They understand that He is ever-present, always working, constantly speaking and deeply invested in our goings-on. They know how to look for Him and His handiwork in both their and in other’s lives. They know how to listen for His voice and leading, both in their and in other’s lives. They recognize that pain is often a door He walks through on His way into someone’s heart.
And in response, they are willing to step up and enter in and help.
I am also finding that this ability and heart posture, while a blessing, can be weight to carry as well.
It is a wonderful thing, to know your life has more meaning than just self-gratification, consumption and the pursuit of fun. It is a gift to be a helper – and to know people and situations are better after your participation than before.
And it can be absolutely exhausting at the same time. How is it possible to see just how dark the world can be… to know that most every person you encounter is managing some level of pain… to hear words in conversation that point to brokenness… to want to change, if not the world, then at least your corner of it…and not be overwhelmed by it all?
In his pain with seeing and hearing too much, Clark’s mom came to his side and taught him a most valuable skill. When he, through tears said, “The world is too big, mom,’ she replied, “Then make it small.” She helped him learn to focus.
The way our world works, sometimes it is too big. With technology, we are connected to too many people and their stories. We have too much access to news, to statistics, to pictures. The level of pain we are able to witness and touch – we were never meant to carry all this. Not that we should run away and hide from the world we live in. I am convinced that followers of Jesus should be more aware than most of what is going on in the world, let our hearts be broken by it and moved into action to bring the redemption of Jesus’ kingdom into people’s lives.
But we must learn to how to focus…on what we can carry…on what we should carry…on what is closest to us and where we should invest our emotional and spiritual capital. Because if we don’t, we can get overwhelmed and crushed by the weight of a burden we were not designed for and never meant to hold. Therefore, I am attempting to learn the spiritual practices of making my world a little smaller. Not because I don’t want to engage the world – but because I so desperately WANT TO engage the world. I’ve got to find a way to do it…and be able to survive at the same time.
Limits on my use of technology …so that I don’t give away to others, the emotional energy that belongs to those in my immediate circle of affection and influence…so that I don’t allow the volume of information coming in to overwhelm me to the point of numbing. Too much online time acts like spiritual Novocaine for me. While not isolating myself, making sure that those with the most intimate access to me and my heart are healthy – so that my personal time is restful and not draining. The embrace of regular silence and solitude. Sometimes for long periods of time. Allowing my heart to rest and recover…allowing me to assess where damage has been done…allowing Jesus to have full access to my heart so He can grow and strengthen it to hold some of the darkness I encounter. Learning that some days, it is totally ok to turn my eyes and ears off and just focus on what is in front of me – like play time with my kids, a good meal or enjoying a walk in the gentle spring sunshine. Learning that I don’t have to be super-serious and intense all the time. Play is ok. Small talk is ok. Realizing that, while Jesus has called me to be aware, involved and compassionate, He has also called me to be human.
Learning to make things small, while not running away from big…I’m pretty sure these are skills of those who are able to live sustainable and beautiful lives, with healthy rhythms of both engagement and rest. Lives not just of vision, but of focus. Lives that are able to change their corner of the world…sometimes much more than that…and thrive in such away that they can then teach others to do the same.
Matthew 13:15 -16 For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them. But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear.