The Pride of Shut Eyes (Psalm 5)
Reflections on Psalm 5
When was the last time someone saw you? Not in a passing glance or a look of mundane curiosity. When was the moment that the face of another stopped with purpose to see you? If this onlooker could see the totality of your life laid out, would they anoint you as a saint or curse you as a devil?
Our days, from our mother’s first embrace to our final goodbye, are witnessed in part by those who pass by. In the intervening years of our lives, we are shaped by the judgments and perceptions of others. The child oft reminded, “you are so smart!” will internalize these remarks and hold herself as knowledgeable; or the teenager decried as “lazy and sedentary” will confine himself to life’s ease so he can keep with those external judgments. Sometimes these evaluations are truthful observation of what is native to our hearts; other times, these appraisals are mean spirited lies. Either way, the look of the other drives what we become.
Pride may prevent us from acknowledging the formative power of these judgments, but the clay in the potter’s hand will take shape eventually. This hubris, once embraced over the long-term, is the firing kiln that hardens our hearts. We won’t frequently own up to the evaluations of the other because we don’t like what they say. They can see our snaking cracks, the furtive sin, we try so desperately to ignore. Pride, thus, makes us long to be unseen.
The Pride of Shut Eyes
While the perceptions of others shape us, whether they be truthful or misinformed, only one Other can see us fully. When He gazes at us, he sees every crack and each inch of darkness. His eyes rest uncomfortably on the parasitic pride residing in our soul. In the inescapable awareness of God’s face, we shut our eyes even harder and embrace the cracks as our beauty. These, however, are the very vipers that will poison our soul unto death. In his essay “The Trouble with X”, C.S. Lewis writes:
“Be sure there is something inside you which, unless it is altered, will put it out of God’s power to prevent your being eternally miserable. While that something remains there can be no Heaven for you, just as there can be no sweet smells for a man with a cold in the nose, and no music for a man who is deaf. It’s not a question of God ‘sending’ us to Hell. In each of us there is something growing up which will of itself be Hell unless it is nipped in the bud. The matter is serious: let us put ourselves in His hands at once – this very day, this hour.”
Seen, yet Loved
As we soak in the look of God’s gaze, we cannot forever ignore the death growing inside us.
Humility is the painful antidote we need for our poisoned hearts. This virtue, the nemesis of pride, is the willingness to acknowledge our evil and fall upon the mercy of Another. It is the desperate hope that He will forgive us. “Real forgiveness,” C.S. Lewis writes in his “Essay on Forgiveness”:
“means looking steadily at the sin, the sin that is left over without any excuse, after all allowances have been made, and seeing it in all its horror, dirt, meanness, and malice, and nevertheless being wholly reconciled to the man who has done it.”
In Christ, this prospect becomes our reality. He is the perceptive Other who sees our darkened souls, yet still loves us. And he longs to give us new, uncracked hearts. When we humbly accept his look and his love, we can cry out with the psalm writer, “But I, by your great love, can come into your house; in reverence I bow down toward your holy temple” (Psalm 5:7, emphasis added, mine).
Footsteps—putting feet on our faith
1. Why do we long to be seen by others?
2. When others see you, what do they find?
3. How can the look of Christ transform you?
Dear God, you see me. You know. And still you love me. Your finger traces every crack in my soul and numbers my every sin. You stack every ill-done deed, not to flaunt my desperate state, but to demonstrate your love which climbs much higher. Let me look deep into your eyes today, humbly, and embrace the forgiveness you offer. In Christ I pray, amen.