It’s funny what happens after you give up trying to keep your eyes squeezed shut. I talked a little bit about this on a recent Facebook Live video. Before I had “gotten woke” it was like I was keeping my eyes tightly, firmly, resolutely closed. The darkness confirmed what I wanted to see; it was easy to push new things away. There I remained asleep, immutable, bored and without any growth.
What I mentioned in my video is now that I’ve opened my eyes (which has happened gradually, and I’m sure I still have a long way yet to go), I see others doing what I did, living life with their eyes resolutely closed. These are the insatiable skeptics, the fearmongers, the naysayers, the “intellectuals”, the people who play it safe. They’re also often the least pleasant to be around because they don’t only put others down, but they put ideas down before they’ve even picked them up. These are the least open-minded, the most ignorant and often the unhappiest people of the bunch. And sadly, they’re the majority.
I don’t mean to sound better than anyone. I lived most of my life as the person described above. It was only through the grace and charity of those who had already been “woke” that I could reject fear and find myself opening my eyes to the sunlight.
What’s interesting is even though many people as described above know they’re unhappy, they still keep their eyes slit-like. They don’t want change, they don’t want answers. And I find myself getting so unbelievably frustrated with them that I want to take a crowbar and pry their eyes open. The problem with that is it does damage to both myself and them. They aren’t ready to open their eyes, and the only thing that could begin that process is the warm light of Christ.
They say that faith is a gift from God. I would argue that self-awareness is too.
The people in my life who had the biggest impact on me while my eyes were still shut were those who gently led me around the obstacles in life that I couldn’t see without pointing them out to me, without telling me that I was stupid for not seeing them; for making fun of me when I ran into them; or for trying to explain to me why my blindness wasn’t incurable. For all I knew this was exactly how I was supposed to be and their criticism would not have been well received. So, it’s funny to me that now I see others doing the same song and dance, my initial inclination is to smack them awake with truth… with a brutal, harsh truth… when my own experience taught me that what truly works is gentleness, is a loving, guiding hand and a calm, steady light: the light of Christ. It never interferes with free will. God doesn’t and neither should we.
And, of course, what I define as health and happiness is my completely subjective opinion. Perhaps what I want for someone is not what they need at all at this time in their life. That’s why speaking your truth and not God’s Truth is a dangerous game. That’s why I’ve learned not to push what I think someone should do onto them. It’s their decision. I can try to empower them, but then I have to let go.
When I first heard the parable about being baptized with fire I didn’t know what it meant, and it scared me. I’ve always been afraid of being uncomfortable… Not the type of uncomfortable like an awkward social situation, but the type of uncomfortable physically. I really don’t like pain for sacrifice. So when people talked to me about purgatory or being baptized with fire I imagined being burned. I couldn’t see any good that could come from fire.
Now that my eyes have been opened and my light has been illuminated I have an inkling of an understanding of what Christ was talking about. It’s kind of like that song ‘this little light of mine I’m gonna let it shine’. That light, when you become a Christian, is small and is kindled by those around you who have a little more seat time. Their patience, love and guidance stokes your fire to grow and grow until you too can light fires within other people. We may not be talking about big bonfires; maybe you light small candles. …But that first hint of light is what makes the biggest difference.
As my faith, courage, and religious education flourished, so did my Fire. I now understand what Christ said about the lit up village on a mountain or the lamp stand not being hid. It’s not an uncomfortable, literal burning fire. It is a passion from within that only God and his disciples can kindle. It is unreal and almost indescribable. It feels so much better than forcefully keeping my eyes shut.
Ignorance can feel good sometimes. No one likes to admit to being ignorant but the truth is that it gives us a false illusion of feeling safe. When we refuse to learn about new things or try new things or challenge our status quo or try to push new ideas away using intellectualism or rationalization, we are crippling ourselves. We’re keeping our eyes shut. Because once we try one thing, if it doesn’t work, we can put it back down. But if it works, you keep it held high and you share it with the next person. It’s a beautiful chain. That’s real safety.
And what’s most interesting about this entire process is once you open your eyes just a tiny bit they keep growing wider and wider and wider. The resources continue to come your way through books, people, movies, research… it all just trickles in as you’re ready for it. But it begins with daring enough to open your eyes just one tiny bit. To stop pushing everything away, to stop believing all the skeptics that make you afraid of everything in the world, and to stop feeling unempowered and helpless. You’re not.
The Lord said “be not afraid” 367 times in the Bible. And yet common sense, in such little commodity these days, makes us think that we need studies and warning labels on every single thing in our lives; that we can trust very few authorities except those of (commonly unchallenged) institutions who claim to have more of our best interest than we do for ourselves. That intuition now counts for nothing. Be not afraid, He said. Seek out and you will find. Knock and the doors will be open. You are called to be prophets, priests and kings. You can’t do that when you’re willfully sitting there, staying blind. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
I want to finish by sharing a quote with an author I’ve never read, Zachry Douglas, from his book of poems “A Journal From the Sea”. A friend of mine sent me this today and it really resonated. I am this woman he is describing. Can you say the same, or are you wishing you were her?