Where have you fixed your eyes? Have you ever really thought about it? Probably not, or you may think that your eyes are not necessarily fixed on anything but that you focus on whatever has priority at the time. I beg to differ. I think our eyes are always fixed on something and everything else that happens in our lives happens in the peripheral vision of our focus. We see every situation and circumstance in relationship to what our eyes are fixed on. So again let me ask, where have you fixed your eyes? In the mirror? On your family? On your career? Or maybe on less desirable things? Things you don’t want anyone to know you are looking at?
We have all decided to fix our eyes on something and that decision determines how we view everything in life. So that focus can set our lives in the right direction with a great view, or that focus can move away from any goals we may have and will leave us stuck looking around, wondering how we got here. The saying goes, “The eyes are the window to the soul,” so where are your eyes focused and what are you allowing in your soul? What is defining you? What filter are you using to view life?
We basically fix our eyes in three directions, each one giving us a very different view of life. So as we read through this, think about which direction you have fixed your eyes and how that determines how you see everything.
First, we can fix our eyes in.
We fix our eyes in on ourselves. We view all situations based on how it affects us individually, as if we are the sun and everything revolves around us. I can remember being like that, and still try to focus a little too much on myself at times.
If you read my last blog post, you remember me talking about how I was consumed with selfishness. Now don’t get me wrong, I never thought I was being selfish, but my eyes were definitely focused in. I was frustrated with everything I was having to do and I was frustrated with everything I couldn’t do. I was just frustrated. I spent every day working to meet the needs of my family and I often wondered who was working to meet my needs. I hated that I didn’t have a say in my day-to-day life. Responsibilities and obligations of the family made decisions for me. I couldn’t decide to sleep in on Saturday because we had ball. I couldn’t decide to not buy groceries because we had snack day. I couldn’t decide to just be lazy because too many people were depending on me. I got so tired of going through the motions for everyone else. I wanted to do what I wanted to do. I definitely had my eyes fixed in.
As I write this, I think back to another challenging time in my life. I have written about it before. There was a time, maybe five or six years ago, when I was ready to quit teaching. It was not fun anymore. Teaching was too stressful. The demands were too high, from the state, from administration, from parents, from students… I was miserable, again trying to please everyone but myself, working late nights and early mornings, taking time away from my family. And it didn’t matter what I did, nothing seemed to matter. And it didn’t matter how hard I worked, because no one seemed to notice. Again, I felt used and abused.
Well, let’s be honest. Not a lot has changed in education. The demands are still high. It is still stressful. And I think I will always work early mornings while teaching. And the same goes with my family. We have ball – or something – nearly every Saturday. We have snack day every two weeks. And we have lots of responsibilities as a family. All the aspects of my life and career that had me ready to quit and throw in the towel are still there. But one very significant aspect has changed. My view. I have my eyes fixed in a new direction now. I am no longer focused in on myself – at least most of the time I am not. I am no longer thinking about me, me, me. I have trained myself to look in a different direction.
But, I am not looking out, as some people might guess.
Yes, I am not looking out, like lots of other people do. That is not where I decided to fix my eyes. But again if we are being honest, the times in my life when I decided to look out, my outlook on life wasn’t any better. When I look out, I see two things. First, I see evil, mean, selfish people. I see crime and hate and lots of people who have their eyes fixed in. I don’t see anything much that brings me joy. I only see things that leave me shaking my head.
Next, when I fix my eyes out, I see everything I don’t have. I look out and see the neighbors with the perfectly manicured yard, and we haven’t even gotten to landscaping yet. I look out and see the friend with the brand new car. I see the friend with the perfect hair. I see the friend with enough confidence to share. I see the co-worker that always seems put together. And I even see the friend who always knows the right scripture or the one who can say the best prayers or the one who seems so spiritually in tune with God that I could never think about living up to that. When I fix my eyes out, I see everything I am not.
Even if I fix my eyes out and try to focus on “good” things, like my family, it seems to last only so long. I love them dearly, but the more I focus on them, the more I begin to see their faults. I begin to get aggravated and again tired of focusing on them, so my eyes tend to become fixed right back on me. Even when I am trying to focus on something good.
So, when I think about fixing my eyes out, I can usually remember some pretty miserable moments in my life, moments where fear took over, moments where insecurities controlled me, moments I do not want to repeat or relive. So in order to avoid that, I have to make sure that I do not fix my eyes out. I am just as frustrated as when I had my eyes fixed in. And if I ever let my eyes stray, it happens all over again.
So where do I have my eyes fixed? What am I focused on that has made all the other issues seem to fall away. Well, if we are going to live a full life of joy and peace, then there is only one place to fix our eyes.
We have to fix our eyes up.
Second Corinthians 4:18 reminds us, “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” Focus on those temporary things leaves us miserable and unsatisfied. We have to look up and beyond what is seen to what is unseen, like God’s love and grace for us.
Colossians 3:2 reminds us to “Set our minds on things that are above, not on things that are on the earth.” Things on the earth are broken and damaged, much like us, and we look at those broken things with our broken eyes, the brokenness and damage is only highlighted, leaving us frustrated, hurt, and possibly even lost. But when we chose to focus up, on the unseen things, on the things above, on our loving Father, then our whole perspective changes.
Joseph of the Old Testament had a rough life. He was sold into slavery by his family, accused of something He nobly didn’t do, and thrown into prison. He could have focused on the faults of his family. He could have focused on the injustices he bore. He could have focused on on the ways life did not turn out as he thought it should. But he did not. At the end of Genesis when his brothers feared that Joseph would hate them, he said, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good…”
Joseph continued to focus up as he experienced the ups and downs of his life. He focused on God and God’s plan for his life and he trusted that plan. With his focus on God, all those troubling events in his life were events seen through his peripheral vision. Events that were there. Events that mattered. But not events that shifted his focus. He was able to see that God could and would work these events for good.
The same is true in our lives and definitely in my life. Shifting my focus has allowed new joy to come into my life. I am able to enjoy my teaching career again. Because I have fixed my eyes up, instead of seeing all the unrealistic demands, I see beautiful children that God placed in my path. I see my opportunity to impact them positively. I see great relationships I have been able to build with my co-workers. I see my purpose in teaching, only because I have fixed my eyes up.
The same is true with my family. I hope you don’t misunderstand me. I love my family beyond measure and I always have, but my family and just the general responsibilities of my family was wearing me out. Now though, I am able to look at my family while my eyes are fixed up. It gives me an entirely new perspective on life. Now I see each glass of milk, each bowl of cereal, each mess is a ministry opportunity to my children. Even though they are being raised in a Godly family, they need to see Jesus in the way I treat them and in the way I treat their daddy. My attitude and my actions, together, need to show them Jesus and I have learned – the hard way – that the only way for me to do that is to keep my eyes fixed up.
I don’t have it in me – and I bet you don’t either – to do all this on our own. I fall to the temptation of negativity. My body and mind wears out quickly. I can focus too much on myself. And the more I do all these things, the bigger my problems seem to get. But thankfully, I am not left to do it all by myself. Jesus has shown me that it is just matter of focus. When I focus in on myself, I can’t see anything but pride. When I focus out on others, I see broken people and all the ways I don’t measure up. But, when I keep my eyes fixed up, then he continues to lift me up. And while all those imperfections are still there, like Joseph, I see all the possibilities and the ways God can use those for good.
When life seems out of focus and things may be spinning out of view, just ask yourself: Where have you fixed your eyes?