My brother was trying to get the attention of his two-year-old son, Kole.

They were at my mom’s house, and she had pulled the kiddie pool from the rafters of the garage. The water had been warming in the sun all afternoon, and though it was evening, the temperature was still balmy and Kole was enjoying the splashing and the stomping and the sifting.

But then he started pouring the water out of the pool, and it wasn’t time for that.

“Kole, don’t dump the water out,” my brother was saying.

Another bucketful sloshed over the side.

“Kole, you need to listen to daddy,” he said, a little firmer.

More water landed on the grass.

“Kole, you need to look at my eyes,” my brother said, taking his son’s hand. The reverie was broken. Kole looked at his daddy.

“Don’t dump the water out,” he said into his son’s eyes.

Kole stopped. 

Though our eyes aren’t made for listening, they sure do help us hear when they are staring into the face of someone who loves us. I know lots of parents who use this trick when their children seem to be ignoring them.

Jesus uses it to.

In Mark 10, Jesus was warning his disciples about the threat of the Pharisees’ brand of faith and of Herod’s irreverent paganism, using the metaphor of yeast. The disciples, however, not really hearing him, think he is actually talking about bread.

“Why are you talking about having no bread,” Jesus asks them. “Do you still not see or understand?”

And so he tells them to look at his eyes. Not in so many words, but by healing a blind man. And when the miracle is done, and he asks them in another way if they understand, Peter makes one of the greatest statements of faith ever told.

“You are the Christ.”

Jesus often has to ask me to look into his eyes as well. 

I can go for weeks at a time, acting as though I am listening. I take good notes at church; I read my Bible before bed and study it over lunch; I read books about Jesus and his kingdom.

But when I continue to live in fear and sin, it’s obvious to Jesus that I haven’t really heard.

Sometimes, Jesus draws me to his eyes through suffering. Though I in no way felt punished, my cancer diagnosis came after a season of drifting and doubt. I wasn’t listening. Jesus used my pain to help me look into his eyes and hear.

Sometimes, Jesus draws me to his eyes through blessing. Just before my second cancer surgery, when I was fearful of the future and specifically about my finances, I found $1,000 cash in my mailbox on a Sunday morning. I looked up into those eyes again and really heard him.

Of course, it’s our ears that were given to us for listening. But it’s our eyes that help us really hear. Especially when they are staring into the face of the One who loves us most.

“My ears had heard of you
but now my eyes have seen you.”

Job 42:5 

holy experience

Today, I am writing in community with Ann Voskamp and friends, discussing the spiritual practice of listening and hearing God. Follow the link above to read Ann’s thoughtful post and then scroll to the bottom and see what others have written.