In graduate school I developed a vision problem. After late nights of studying, I’d wake up in the morning unable to open my right eye. I’d lie in bed and rub gently, encouraging it to wake up too. A long day of classwork and reading lay ahead; I couldn’t do it without both eyes functioning properly.
When I could blink both eyes, I’d get up and go about my work with little thought to the problem—until the headaches set in toward the end of the day.
After a few weeks, my husband convinced me to see an optometrist, who diagnosed me with eye strain. Reading had exhausted my right eye’s muscles; its inability to open each morning was a white flag of surrender––my body’s way of saying “too much!” Therapy would help my eyes to track properly and open correctly in the morning, but in the long term, therapy and a good night of sleep weren’t going to be enough.
If I wanted to see properly, I’d need to make some more significant changes to my study habits. Exhaustion couldn’t become a way of life.
For many of us, 2020 has proven a tiring year. And when we’re exhausted, the last thing we want to do is open our eyes.
For many of us, 2020 has proven a tiring year. And when we’re exhausted, the last thing we want to do is open our eyes. As the darkness falls earlier each day, we are simply worn out and ready for bed. We want to close our eyes to job strain, to financial problems, to pandemic worries. Our spirits flag, and our hope dims. If only we could shut out the world, dull the noise, and slip into hibernation mode until the winter and the weary year has passed.
But we need more than a good night of sleep. Like my optometrist diagnosed years ago, our weary eyes and hearts and spirits require more significant care. In this holiday season, new life can only be found one way––not by closing our eyes, but by opening them.
Throughout the Scriptures, God invites people to open their eyes. When Elisha’s men fear they are surrounded, the prophet prays, “Open their eyes,” and God dispels their anxieties with the truth of his presence. To the exhausted, frustrated Job, God exhorts, “Look around! See who’s in charge here.” Job rediscovers a mighty God who creates and sustains. When two blind men on the road beg for mercy, Jesus offers both physical and spiritual sight.
When we are exhausted, God offers a simple cure: open your eyes. Gaze upon my beauty. See my power. Look to me for all you need. Jesus takes the dust of our lives, infuses it with his healing presence, and presses it to our eyes, saying, “Do you see anything?” We find balm for our exhaustion as we open our eyes to his goodness.
In this holiday season, new life can only be found one way––not by closing our eyes, but by opening them.
If you told me you were exhausted this holiday season, I might be inclined to tell you to take a good nap and get away from your screens. While I hope you have a chance to do that too, you and I both need something more. When exhaustion overtakes us, we must open, not close, our eyes. We must look to Jesus who carries our burdens. We must raise our gaze and our hearts to the Spirit who comforts us in our distress. We must marvel afresh at the beauty God offers us as he dispels our darkness with his light.
In one of our favorite family bedtime songs, Sandra McCracken sings, “Come to me, I have all you need / Learn to rest even while you are awake.” This Advent season, may your body and soul find rest as you open your eyes, praising God for his appearing to us in Christ.