THE GAZE OF THE HEART
1 I lift up my eyes to the mountains— where does my help come from? 2 My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.
As each Christmas season arrives, Allen and I so fondly recall the days when our son, Matt, as a young boy, enjoyed lying on his back under our Christmas tree and gazing up into the intricate pattern of branches, shiny tinsel, ornaments, twinkling lights (since we always had an artificial tree, the dripping of sap was not an issue). In the midst of playing and learning, Matt would simply “pause”, position himself under the tree, and take time to “look up”; this became a boyhood Christmas tradition for him, lasting several years. I like to think it was his way of meditating and reflecting, as much as a child can do. His little well-worn, six-inch-tall brown teddy bear was always nestled next to his face. I have no need of photos to remind me of Matt’s “time under the tree” --- it’s one of the precious visuals that’s foremost in my mind.
Gazing upward is a good thing, I think --- we should definitely do it more often! It’s exactly the position we should take during Advent to keep us lovingly absorbed with Christ. When we’re looking outward, and especially when we’re looking inward at our own selfish interests, distractions and stumbling can result. Right now, we’re in a season of distraction and “pause” --- a pause from just about everything that once seemed normal to us. We may obsess and feel anxious about our rising Covid numbers, mask-wearing, sanitizing, social distancing, and the cancellation of treasured family get-togethers. And, while awareness and safe practices are important, our minds and our hearts also need a break from the continuous stream of sensational items recorded in the news that “blur” our true focus --- a blur that keeps us from seeking and focusing on God. God gives us the ability to choose where we put our focus and energy, but do we consciously make that choice? He is our unchanging God and our only real certainty in this life of uncertainties, so the choice is clear. In Him, we find peace amid the chaos. God never changes. He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. He’s steadfast, reliable, and always with us . . . unlike the world!
By looking upward, we’re saying, in effect, that we refuse to be ensnared by the world. Let the distractions of the world fade away! By remembering where God is, we grow in trust and confidence in Him. Rev. Charles Spurgeon writes, “the uplifted eyes naturally and instinctively represent the state of the heart which fixes on desire, hope, confidence, and expectation upon the Lord.” Likewise, James Montgomery Boise writes, “do we look up to God reverently, obediently, continuously, expectantly, singly, submissively, imploringly? Probably not, but we should.”
As I see it, what is all-important is the gaze of the heart at Him who is ruling this world and working out His eternal purpose for each of us. What if this became our focal point this Christmas season and into the new year? I need no further assurance . . . how about you?
So, if you tend to get “all wrapped up” this Christmas season, in the problems of the pandemic, it might be the perfect time to stop, take a few minutes each day to simply look upward, and meditate on the shining glory of God. While you’re at it, send up a grateful prayer --- it just may help sharpen your focus. And, if you just happen to have a fuzzy little teddy bear nestled beside you, may it remind you of the comforting hand of our Lord and Savior.
-- Mary Beth Spletzer