A very short couple took the empty seats in front of me at a meeting this weekend. Before sitting, the lady timidly looked at me and asked, “Will you be able to see?” I smiled and nodded. She turned and sat, her slight height allowing me full view of the podium. This made me chuckle. Because I am just 5 feet, 2 inches in height, I routinely sit through events that are obstructed by taller people sitting in front of me. Ironically, it was someone shorter than me who showed concern for my perspective. I don’t recall ever once being asked that question by anyone else.
I still smile to think of this sweet little lady. She had probably stretched her spine and craned her neck, and even sat on her hands, to see performances and speakers her whole life. She probably considered my comfort because of her many uncomfortable experiences.
I remember times when medium-height women in tall hats have switched seats with their dates in front of me. In their determination to secure an optimal view, they downgraded my view from partial to none, never once considering who sat behind them. In fact, all I need to do is gesture my husband at an event, and we will change seats to my advantage. Our seat switch is perfectly choreographed from years of practice. Come to think of it, I don’t recall ever once considering the person behind me. While most people are taller than me, there are some who aren’t.
We don’t want an obstructed view. Such seats are sold at a considerable discount on Broadway.
Since we are so concerned about seeing things clearly, advice on better vision should be welcomed. Still, some of us are surprised and even a bit indignant when we read the passage in Matthew 7:1-5, where Jesus reminds us that we may have obstructed views. He tell us;
“‘Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
‘Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, “Let me take the speck out of your eye,” when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.’”
I was asked a tricky question as an eight year old. In his colorless, sterile office, the optometrist stooped in front of me, holding up two bunny-ears fingers. He asked me how many fingers he held up. I was confused. I knew that he was holding up two fingers, but I actually saw four. I saw his peace sign clearly, but to the side of it, there was a fainter, overlapping replica of his fingers. He changed his unanswered question. “Do you see two hands, or one?” That question was easier. I saw two.
That was the first time that I understood that some people only saw the objects and things of life in one image. They saw half of what I saw. The reality of this became literally clear when I had eye surgery shortly after that.
I awoke, traumatically, in a hospital bed with patches on both of my eyes. I attempted to open my eyes with effort, but they would not yield. Beige eye pads covered my eyes under wrapped gauze bandages. A bit of pale yellow light seeped through around the outer edges of the patches. The staff had secured my hands at my sides, lest I wake up and try to pull the patches off. When I cried out, a nurse came and explained that they could not yet untie my hands. I lay there, blind and bound. Correcting my vision was not turning out to be a comfortable process.
In a short time, my surgically corrected eye healed. And for the first time in my life, I saw just one of everything. Everything was less confusing and less difficult to maneuver. I had been accident prone. I had routinely mis-aimed and mis-judged. I hit doorjambs in poor lighting, not sure where the real one stood. I hadn’t understood how my distorted view was hurting me in so many ways.
Jesus knows that we can have marred vision and not be aware of it. This is why He tells us all to do self-checks.
Jesus knows that we can have marred vision and not be aware of it. This is why He tells us all to do self-checks. I imagine that I would have eventually figured out that not everybody saw double, but it took a specialist to discern what I didn’t discern.
I am sad to report that his happened to me again recently. I had become involved in a conflict that I couldn’t get myself out of. As I prayed and took drastic measures to secure peace, peace floated further out to sea. The waves that I was making as part of my best efforts were pushing understanding away. I felt misunderstood and frustrated.
After some time of struggling, I cast my cares on Him (see I Peter 5:7). For a long time, I had no idea what He did with them. I could expend no more energy trying to fix what had become a mess. I walked away and then took solace and comfort in The Rock That Is Higher Than I (see Psalm 61:2). And I continued to wait on Him.
“It’s all good,” I thought. “Humility is always good.”
Still, I didn’t consider that there was maybe a ruler-sized slice of wood beside where the sliver had stood. I removed that and squeezed my eyes shut. I was seeing more than I had before. Was there a plank there?, I eventually considered? Initially, that wasn't even the table as an option. I obeyed the prompting of the Holy Spirit and cringed. After so much arguing and justifying before God, I saw it. It was there. I was surprised. I was also grateful.
Was I completely at fault for the conflict? It didn’t matter at that point. Jesus said that I had to first “take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:5) I was pretty shaken up. I had been completely blind to my pride. It is then that I truly and completely repented.
I had been whole-heartedly wielding a magnifying glass and was placing it up to, and was examining, the specks that I was sure were in other peoples’ eyes.
Did my spiritual plank extraction give me license to now assess and judge? The Holy Spirit is the ultimate judge. I wan't sure I wanted that position and responsibility. I certainly didn't want to be measured by my own measuring rod. I now was privy to my limitations. The truth is, I no longer wanted to judge. I began to see the other people in the situation with concern. I was certainly in a better position to see where my own sin escalated the situation.
My behavior was hit back to me, like a ping pong ball. I know with certainty that I would not have received another person’s judgement with open arms before this revelation. I know that only He would be able to effectively convict me. That was probably true of other people, too.
My plank-less perspective now gave me a spectacular intercessory view. And that is where I have remained. God is still showing me stuff, as I look back with the distance and safety of hindsight. I have repented for my part, and my heart is lighter. I am grateful that I am not trying to balance and walk forward with that plank in my eye. God has infused me with more of His grace and more of His patience with other people. My heart is right and my prayers will be all the more effective than they once were (see James 5:16).
My plank-less perspective now gave me a spectacular intercessory view.
Ephesians 5:1-2 gives us a framework. Paul says, “Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” If we assess another person’s behavior or heart and feel judgement rise up within us, rather than love and a desire for their true well-being, then we must pause and pray. If accusations, judgement and anger stand between you and them, then it is necessary to be sure that specks and planks are removed from you own eyes, first.
You can only control what’s in your own eye. We must learn to routinely do self-examinations to keep our own eyes speck, splint and plank-free. We can pray for other people, but doing surgery on an unwilling patient can result in disaster. Still, people attempt it all of the time. The results within the church are not impressive.
Jesus had no tolerance for hypocrites. To ask God if we have invisible planks in our eyes is asking Him if we are hypocrites. We must be willing to accept that we may be wrong. For some of us, it’s a potentially painful prospect. But not all of our wounds are inflicted by other people. We may be hurting ourselves by refusing to consider our true condition.
Self-examination is simply asking God if and how we may be adding to a problem.
Self-examination is simply asking God if and how we may be adding to a problem. Is there undetected sin in our lives that is infiltrating or contaminating our relationships? He is gentle and He is kind. He will show us bit by bit if we can only handle a little bit of revelation at a time.
"There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (see Romans 8:1). It may take some courage, but we can trust that God is our truly loving Heavenly Father, and he wants to heal our hearts, not condemn us. Some times, it may be a process. At other times, He may give it to us like it is. The situation may require this. Still, He will help and comfort us. At other times, there is no plank. We looked and our eyes were clear. Praise God when that happens! Either way, it’s a win-win; remove what is hurting us, or validate that there is nothing there.
John 1:19 promises, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” It is a mistake to assume that we are all walking in righteousness at all times. It is a promise that we will be made clean when we are in error, and then humble ourselves in the act of repentance by turning around and changing our hearts and ways.
Hebrews 12:1 tells us, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” We can’t throw off what we don’t see. He loves us and wants to help us remove what hinders and entangles us. He takes us through these processes because He wants us to be truly free!