Any time I can bring my formal training in English to bear on anything related to worship and/or the Christian walk, I enjoy doing so–all truth being God’s truth. I wasn’t a huge fan of the essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson when I was taking various American literature surveys in high school and college, but his arresting metaphor (or its equivalent attributed to Shakespeare and others) about the eyes being the window to the soul always resonated with me, and I used it as a springboard for the following devotional, the third in a series of reflections on reflections given to Judson students for their use during a missions trip to India several years ago.
“Windows to the Soul”
Matthew 6:22-23: “Your eyes are windows into your body. If you open your eyes wide in wonder and belief, your body fills up with light. . . . If you pull the blinds of your windows, what a dark life you will have!” (The Message)
Ralph Waldo Emerson, the great essayist and poet, once said that our eyes are the windows to our souls. What a concept—that we can gaze into people’s eyes and get a glimmer into what’s going on in their souls. Or, to put it another way, our eyes reflect our souls. Lest this sound a bit New-Agey, let me put it into practical terms that American Christians can appreciate. Periodically I will quote Emerson to my volunteer church choir regarding this very thing; when they’re up in front of the congregation singing, they are communicating, not only with their voices, but also with their eyes. Communication theorists tell us that communication transpires through two channels, sound and light. In the case of my choir, they communicate via sound—the words themselves that they are singing, the way in which they articulate certain phrases and emphasize certain key words—but also via light—their non-verbal cues: their posture, their body language, their facial expressions, and, especially, their eye contact.
I have always taken the scripture passage above (and most translators have, as well) to refer to keeping myself from regular viewing of harmful material, and I think Christ probably had that in mind, at least to an extent, when he gave this exhortation during the Sermon on the Mount. But I also like the broader application that Eugene Peterson gives it in The Message. Part of what Christ is getting at here, I think, is attitudinal. It’s about the very way that you approach life.
The late Mike Yaconelli, co-founder of Youth Specialties and a personal hero of mine, once said this:
The more pagan a society becomes, the more boring its people become. The sign that Jesus is in our hearts, the evidence of the truth of the Gospel is . . . we still have a light on in our souls. We still have a gleam in our eyes. . . . The light in our souls is not some pietistic somberness; it is the spontaneous, unpredictable love of life. . . . Christians not only know how to practice piety, we also know how to party.
May all those that come in contact with you on this trip see the reflection of your Christ-imbued souls in your eyes, eyes filled with wonder and belief.
Prayer for today:
Jesus Christ, fully God and fully man, who bid playful children to come to Yourself and chastised those who would hinder them, cause us to be childlike in our faith—always, but especially on this trip—that we might reflect in all our nonverbal communication Your light in our souls, so that others might glorify Your Father, and our Father, in heaven. Amen.
The Lord be with you!