2020 Vision: Our Eyes are on You
Updated: Mar 27, 2020
"For some reason I just can't stop painting eyes." I told my Mom as we talked on our usual across-the-world phone call.
Like the rest of the world, our phone call had largely consisted of us talking about all the changes that were taking place in the world because of the corona virus. She lives in a small town in Georgia and I live in the huge city of Bangkok, yet we were facing similar challenges.
We had laughed about the fact that it was probably good that she was recovering from surgery and was housebound because she would not be good at staying home the way that eighty-year-olds are supposed to be doing.
"Sheila, you know I'm just not designed for social distancing."
Truer words could not be spoken. Anyone who knows my Mother knows that she is the friendliest person alive. She went on to tell me how God was still bringing conversations to her through phone calls and home-health care professionals who were coming in to help her.
"In fact, I had a wonderful conversation just this morning with the nicest lady who had come in to help me. I was able to share your blog post with her and remind her that God has His eye on the sparrows and He is also watching us. So many people here are so fearful about this pandemic. I keep reminding them that we can choose faith over fear."
My Mother is not speaking from good-sounding theories, but from real life experience. My parents lived in Zimbabwe for thirty years. During that time, they survived a war but were friends with many who did not.
They also lived through the AIDS epidemic there. For my Dad, a surgeon at the hospital where one-in-four patients were HIV positive, it was especially dangerous. I remember a visitor coming to the hospital and taking a picture of the re-washed gloves hanging out on a bush to dry in the sun. I guess for an American that was an oddity because they were used to wearing disposable gloves.
"Well, since you are painting eyes, I sure wish you could find a way to illustrate the 2 Chronicles 20 passage," my Mom continued. "God just keeps bringing that one to mind. It has similarities to what we are going through--a vast army attacking and the only thing we can do is to pray and sing and keep our eyes on God."
I laughed and said I didn't think I would be able to paint anything like that scene. I'm certainly no artist. In fact, I'm fifty-two years old and have never been interested in art. But my husband was out of town earlier this year and I decided to try something new with my extra time.
Near the end of January, I purchased a canvas and some paints. I came home and opened up a youtube video about painting a beautiful scenic landscape.
Mine turned out horribly.
Thank goodness that with acrylics you can just paint over what you have and start again!
The next night, I attempted another scene. This time, a peaceful beach scene.
It, too, was a disaster.
I had to regroup. I took some time to think about what I was learning and seeing in myself and others. That week I was speaking about toxic shame to some of the teens at our school. I thought about how often deep emotions are inside of us, but others can't see them. I started painting and realized I was painting an eye. I grabbed some magazines and begin tearing out words and letters as I tried to describe some of the pain going on beneath the surface of the eye that I labelled "Shame."
I enjoyed the process so much, I went out and bought two more canvases. I painted an eye to represent anger and an eye to represent fear. I thought about the way God's amazing grace covers over all our emotions. I thought about His kindness to forgive our misguided thinking and harmful actions that we often let our emotions drive us to.
For some reason, I kept painting eyes. An eye to remind me that we should fix our eyes on Jesus. An eye to remind me to keep my thoughts aligned with God's thoughts. An eye to remind me to take the log out of my own eye before attempting to help someone else with the speck in theirs. An eye to remind me that for now we are looking in a reflection like a mirror, but later we shall see face to face.
I kept returning back to the store. I needed more paints and more canvases.
I thought about how often the Bible refers to God's eyes. I had no idea how to depict His loving gaze, but I could see His compassion as He looked at...
The little sparrow.
The crowds that were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
The prodigal son.
Me. The apple of His eye. Just as He looks at all of the people He created with delight and joy.
My husband returned, but because he had flown through Korea we were quarantined for fourteen days. I missed going for walks in the park. I missed riding my bike and noticing the flowers and the birds. I thought about creation and how God desires us to look at it and to think about Him. He asks us to look at...
The fields that are ripe for harvest, because they represent the many hurting people who are longing for good news.
The mountains because they remind us where our help comes from.
The lilies of the field because they help us to remember that a Creator who dresses them so beautifully will always take care of us.
The rainbow in the clouds because it will always be a reminder of His promise to us.
A friend texted to say she was going to the mall and she asked what she could pick up for me, since I was in quarantine. That was easy to answer--I needed more canvases and paint. Eyes were still coming to my mind that needed to be painted.
By that time, COVID-19 was changing the landscape of our world.
I was reading of people dying in China, Italy, Korea and Iran. I was reading personal stories of many who were fearful about their loved ones with compromised immune systems. I could hear the combined panic of a world that was having life as we had known it ripped away from us.
I was aware that what was happening on a global scale was in addition to the hurts and traumas and triggers that most people already live with on a daily basis.
I painted a shattered eye and thought about how God longs to see the broken restored.
I painted an eye held captive in addiction and thought about the many who would return to old ways of coping as their world fell apart.
I painted an eye that was breaking apart and thought about the way that God longs to bind up those who have gaping wounds. I thought about how the corona virus was re-opening the cracks and wounds that we may have been able to hide before.
I painted an eye welling up with a tear, as I wiped away a few of my own. I thought about how I am so very grateful that I know the God who longs to wipe away every tear and I prayed for those who don't know His comfort.
It was at this point that I had the conversation with my Mom. As we talked, I remembered something.
"Mother, maybe the reason I am painting eyes is because it is 2020. Remember, how at the beginning of the year so many pastors were saying it was the year of 20/20 vision since it was 2020? I was in Hattiesburg for the first Sunday of the year and Pastor Chad talked about how we each need to ask God to correct our vision. Maybe God is giving me these eyes so that I will have clearer vision."
"20/20 vision in 2020! I love that!" My Mother replied.
As I entered the the year 2020 on that first Sunday in January, I could never have imagined what was ahead of us. I couldn't have imagined that a virus would bring the world to a halt.
I didn't know that those of us who have loved ones living on different countries and continents wouldn't know when we would see them again.
I couldn't have begun to see that the economy would be in jeopardy. That people would be losing their jobs. That we would all be living in isolation in our homes.
Even though I have lived through numerous crisis times in the past, they have always been confined to one country. Perhaps those in my beloved Zimbabwe were going through another political hardship or another drought. It could be that a tornado had torn through another city where a loved one lived in the south. Or, it could be the sometimes shaky political landscape here. But, never before in my life have I seen a crisis on this kind of global scale.
As I thought about my Mom asking me to illustrate 2 Chronicles 20, I just couldn't imagine how to do it. I couldn't picture those eyes looking at God with the vast army approaching. But I started seeing faces of people I love seeking God and focusing on Him. I pictured the faces of people on social media who are choosing to look to the Lord during this hard time.
Yes, they are concerned.
And, yes, there are moments they are fearful.
But they know what to do. They are praying. They are singing.
Yesterday, I picked up my paintbrush again and tried to capture some of the women throughout the world crying out to God. My paintings are certainly imperfect, but I think that's okay because they reflect imperfect people. People who realize they are not in control.
People who have 20/20 vision because they are looking at Him.
I long to be one of those people.
How are you doing during this time of crisis? Do you need to ask God to help correct your vision? Is He calling you to share the comfort He can give with others? Are there any of these eyes that you can relate to? I'm not sure why God has had me painting eyes this year, but I hope they have somehow brought a blessing to you. Please let me know how I can pray for you.