I once lived in a home that was in what is politely called a “transitional” neighborhood. There was a mix of responsible homeowners and good citizens, and then there were the renters on the fringes of the neighborhood who brought the odd police car out now and then.
It was a snug, comfortable little brick house that met the need, and I was grateful for it. My kitchen sink was at an angle in one corner and there were four pretty little french-style windows that opened up over the sink. Two looked out over the backyard and the alley, and the other two on the right looked into the neighbor’s yard. I bought some white eyelet valances which seemed just right for the top of the windows. Some summer nights when I would have my hands in hot dishwater, a breeze would come in those windows and cool my face, and I was happy.
What I didn’t love was the view out of the first two windows. The apartment house by the alley had a constant flow of seedy-looking characters coming and going. Rusted out cars with booming stereos were always pulling in and out of the parking lot. Dubious business appeared to be conducted, but there was not much I could do about it.
If I looked to my right, however, I couldn’t see any of it. Instead I would see into the neighbor’s yard with its tall pine tree that had a bird feeder hanging from one of its branches. The yard next door was fenced, but I could peep into the flower garden and see the careful landscaping the elderly couple had done. In spring, vibrant red and yellow tulips sprang up around their stone bird bath where all kinds of birds would splash around. A lilac bush in full lavender splendor was visible for the few weeks of its glory. Pink flowers lined the flower beds. There was a bench where the couple would sit out sometimes, and I would see them as I cleaned up the kitchen.
Before long, I found that I never looked out the first two windows at all. My gaze was fixed on the beauty within view instead, and I found it a little restful oasis for my eyes. Instead of chafing about the not-so-pretty reality out back, I looked to the side and found rest.
The other day, I realized what a good metaphor this is for the Christian life. The moral squalor is so bad now. I don’t have to elaborate. But if we get so locked into studying evil and focusing on the inevitable collapse of this country, we can get our eyes off the beauty of Christ. What happens is that an underlying unease and stress caused by circumstances can keep us in a constant state of anxiety and fear.
By keeping our eyes on the beauty of Christ, we not only find rest, but we also find that our priorities fall into place. We can be freed from materialism and narcissism that the world calls normal living. We can find a song in our hearts instead of incessant anger and dread of things to come.
There are true needs in this world that we can help meet. I am not suggesting that we live in some blissed-out nirvana state where real needs and hurt get ignored so we can stay happy. I am saying that the overwhelming evil of our times can overcome us if that’s the only thing in our line of vision. For the Christian, we know that this life is but a tiny drop in the vast ocean of eternity. Whenever we fix our eyes on Jesus, it serves to remind us of that important truth.
While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.
~ 2 Corinthians 4:18