Thursday, October 27, 2011

Blurry vision…

I don’t often read poetry. No reason; just don’t. But when I do, some verse may catch my attention, and occupy it for awhile. Like, in the case of the following poem, about ten years:

I- How wisely Nature did decree,
With the same eyes to weep and see!
That, having viewed the object vain,
They might be ready to complain.

II- What in the world most fair appears,
Yea, even laughter, turns to tears…
Yet happy they whom grief doth bless,
That weep the more, and see the less…

III- So Magdalen, in tears more wise
Dissolved those captivating eyes,
Whose liquid chains could flowing meet
To fetter her Redeemers feet.

IV- Ope then mine eyes your double sluice,
And practice so your noblest use.
For others too can see, or sleep;
But only human eyes can weep.

V- Thus let your streams o’erflow your springs,
Till eyes and tears be the same things:
And each the other’s difference bears;

These weeping eyes, those seeing tears.

It sounds old, right? Because it is; written in 17th Century England. Nevertheless, when I first read it, I was struck by how contemporary the idea felt; specifically that tears could somehow supplement the data eyes pass along.

That’s not how some folk talk, after all. Think of ‘eyes’ in the poem as a metaphor for reason and information, and ‘tears’ another metaphor for feelings and emotion. In which case, what ‘eyes see’ is commonly thought not assisted, but impeded by ‘tears.’ Indeed, the mature adult, some say, ought separate such things. Feel your emotions, but don’t let them infect your thinking.

At least, that used to be the standard. In recent years, however, philosophers and scientists have challenged such notions, suggesting that we’d be better decision-makers, analysts, even spectators if we integrated hearts with minds. Or, in the poem’s language, let ‘eyes and tears be the same things.’ Imagine detachedly assessing your child, listing pros and cons, in order to determine whether to invest in her/his future. Ridiculous, right?! You’d miss a key ingredient- love. In other words, a thoughtful person must also be an emotionally developed person. And vice verse for those who feel deeply, but think little about it.

Why does this matter for Christians? Well, I’ve been wondering recently how y’all understand the Holy Spirit. You know, that part of the Trinity many find uncomfortable, or embarrassing… It comes to mind because, during a recent worship service, I found myself holding back tears. And this wasn’t the first time; in fact, it happens regularly. During sermons, listening to prayer, singing a moving song. All these experiences and more can induce my eyes to well up.

Strange? That’s what I thought at first too! Until I realized (after hearing another Christian I admire admit the same) that this may just be how the Holy Spirit does Her work in me. Maybe that’s over-dramatizing something I should talk about in therapy… But assuming not, I truly believe that when the Spirit moves in my life, S/He often starts at my tear ducts.

Or to put it differently- Perhaps, during those times when all my typical distractions, doubts and frustrations fade away and I’m finally focused first on God, my spirit touches something, connects with someone divine. And the way it informs me is tears. Doesn’t happen always at church or in prayer, or even often, but when it does, it usually feels the same. Not like I’m about to break down; just the beginning of tears. But it’s enough, apparently, to entice me to ‘open my eyes wider’, to ‘look’ more closely at what’s happening.

I admit- I could be weird, but I suspect it’s a bigger phenomenon than me. So I wonder if maybe the Holy Spirit sometimes uses our emotional lives to tell our rational minds when to pay better attention. Which isn’t the same as hearing God speak clearly, like with a British accent! Simply God utilizing our whole selves- spirit, mind, heart- to bring awareness to God’s wondrous presence, and teach God’s Holy ways. “Those seeing tears,” indeed…

Does that make sense? How do you “feel,” “sense,” “hear/see/experience” the Holy Spirit?

Grace and Peace,

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