Every day, it seems, I find myself looking up words and their etymologies, trying to get at the root of what something I've just read means. Sometimes it's a word in the Bible, and I end up wading my way through ancient languages I've never studied, searching for clues. Other times it's just words from daily life that suddenly pertain to some matter I'm struggling with or considering. Often the word has changed over the centuries; I find such words particularly fascinating—particularly when, as is often the case, the word's current meaning is at odds with what it once meant. Some of these word studies find their way into my writing projects. My goal is to post new words weekly, sometimes brand new material and sometimes excerpts from my books.

06 June 2010


The Bible offers us many kinds of eyes—eyes that see clearly,
eyes overflowing with tears, eyes with scales on them, eyes with
planks in them, eyes darker than wine, eyes that should be gouged
out, eyes that are lamps, eyes that hate the hands or the feet or
secretly envy other body parts, eyes that cause us to sin, eyes too
small for a camel or a rich man to pass through, and lustful eyes,
painted eyes, eyes that offend us, eyes with barbs in them, eyes
that see treasure, eyes that see destruction, eyes that are on all of
creation from the beginning of the year to the end. People make
covenants with their eyes. They open their eyes, close their eyes,
wipe their eyes, and lift up their eyes to the mountains. The blind
are made to see, and the sighted become blind because of sin or
drought or sheer stupidity. Both good things and bad things are
pleasing to the eye, and seeing is metaphorical for everything from sinning to repenting to understanding. Ironically, there are blind watchmen, as well as blind men, who are the only ones who can see. Through our eyes we are enlightened and also led astray.

What are we to make of it all? How, as Christians, do we take
on this burden—described by Jesus as “light”—of seeing the way
God would have us see? Is seeing through the eyes of faith the
same thing as what many Christians tell me they are trying to
do—that is, seeing ourselves as God sees us? And how is that,
exactly? Does he see me as I see my own children, as flawed, horrible even, but utterly lovable because they are mine? Or does he see only our sins, those bloody rags we drag after us? Does the All-Seeing One see only the part that doesn’t offend him, the purity of Jesus in us? I have been offered each of these possibilities. Just how do we go about being students of God? What do we look at? And what should we do about what we see? Is closing our eyes a correct or faithful way of seeing?

~excerpt from Confessions of an Amateur Believer (Thomas Nelson, 2007)

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