By: Jenni Walker
“[May] the God of glory…make you intelligent and discerning in knowing Him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is He is calling you to do, [and] grasp the immensity of this glorious way of life He has for His followers, the utter extravagance of His work in us who trust Him.” (Ephesians 1:17-19 MSG)
“That is exactly what we need. Eyes to see. Isn’t that what Jesus offered us – clarity? Recovery of sight for the blind? We need clarity, and we need it badly. A simple prayer rises from my heart: Jesus, take away the fog and the clouds and the veil, and help me to see…give me eyes to really see.” (John Eldredge)
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I received my first jury duty summons a little over three years ago. I was an alternate during the selection process and was released after just two days. It was a bitterly cold week, and as I exited from the tiled hallways of the Tulsa city courthouse into the wintry February winds, I considered plunging ahead in my quarter-mile walk to the parking ramp. But just across the street stood the downtown library, which housed two levels of books, attractive architecture, and a Starbucks. Yes, I would stop there before completing the frigid walk to my car.
Entering its heated interior through two walls of glass doors, I was greeted by a hushed environment. The room was expansive with soaring ceilings and second-story balconies. I found myself in the pensive state that seems to envelope me every time I spend a few moments at a bookstore or local library as I wandered past the first-floor coffee shop toward a book display. It was in this state of blissful concentration that I came across a book entitled Nine Gates: Experiencing the Mind of Poetry. I had only scanned its first several pages when a particular quote seemed to leap off the page at me:
“In the wholeheartedness of concentration, world and self begin to cohere. With that state comes an enlarging: of what may be known, what may be felt, what may be done.”
In this quote, author Jane Hirshfield beautifully observes how essential it is to pursue clarity of thought and to practice sustained concentration. Her statement is about more than self-discovery. This concept of “wholeheartedness of concentration” is a biblical one. Paul writes to the church of Ephesus in Ephesians 1:17-19 (MSG), “[May] the God of glory…make you intelligent and discerning in knowing Him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is He is calling you to do, [and] grasp the immensity of this glorious way of life He has for His followers, the utter extravagance of His work in us who trust Him.”
Our Lord calls us to join Him in “the utter extravagance of His work in us who trust Him.” But how can we “grasp the immensity of this glorious way of life” if we neglect to make time for pure concentration of our minds and hearts on “knowing Him personally”? Like a library full of knowledge just waiting to be experienced, are we making room in our lives in a tangible way for the essential practice of pursuing godly clarity with eyes “focused and clear”? In light of Scripture, let’s consider the three elements of Jane Hirshfield’s quote together.
1) “WHAT MAY BE KNOWN…”
“Be still, and know…”
In today’s fast-paced world, it is common for our minds to be bombarded with catchy headlines, social media posts, and segmented pieces of information. We are glossing over “what may be known” in exchange for rapid consumption of updates, headlines, and opinions. In contrast, our Heavenly Father is speaking to our hearts, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10a).
Our Lord would not give us this serious yet loving command if it were not possible. He is the One who helps us to still our hearts and to rest in who He is. But we must choose to seek Him in this way. Let’s concentrate on knowing our Lord with hearts anchored in who He is and then engaging our whole selves as followers of Christ in clear pursuit of Him. This can mean putting our phones in another room to help us to be present in our personal devotion time; turning on a worshipful song and quieting our hearts before the Lord when folding laundry; or even asking our spouse to handle the kiddos for ten minutes in the evening, shutting our bedroom door, and dropping to our knees by our bedside. How can you practice knowing the Lord even more personally and walking with Him with sustained concentration today?
2) “WHAT MAY BE FELT…”
“With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.”
To have our eyes “focused and clear,” we must intentionally unify what we know and do with the state of our hearts. Schedules that are jammed full of activities and demands can easily lead us into a harried whirlwind with little time to experience “what may be felt” in this life. Our personal lives can become segmented into “my work life,” “my family life,” “my church life”; that sense of purpose and connection that our Creator put inside each one of us unwittingly begins to fade as our lives become driven by checklists of what must be done.
Isaiah 12:3 tells us, “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.” Let us remember that our whole life belongs to God, and He has given each of us a new heart that is alive and made to feel! He desires for us to draw water for our souls from His deep “wells of salvation.” As we earnestly seek to know our Lord and His ways, there will be new depths that we will experience (Romans 11:33). Do not stay in the shallows. How might you endeavor to connect deeply and even emotionally with what you read and pray during your devotion time in an intentional yet personal way? In a way that fosters a true experience of faith in God and an ongoing love relationship with Him that will permeate all aspects of your daily life?
3) “WHAT MAY BE DONE.”
“For You have also done all our works in us.”
I learned recently that Dr. Seuss as a boy was a voracious reader from a young age, poring over books such as Oliver Twist by age six. He grew in knowledge and in personal connection with what he read as a young boy. In this “wholeheartedness of concentration” in his reading and creative expression of thought over the years, there was truly “an enlarging…of what may be done”: countless children’s books with friendly illustrations and mind-shaping messages that have been read by nearly every single American citizen. Putting not just our minds but our hearts and souls into the discipline and art of concentration will foster clarity as we listen to God’s voice in our lives – letting all that we do be done in Him. I wholeheartedly believe that this will amplify the kingdom work that God has called for us to do, for He is the One who has “done all our works in us” (Isaiah 26:12).
Vision and disciplined focus will produce both a holy dependence on the Lord and also a God-given zeal for His purposes. Ask the Lord for His clarity and spiritual insight. His Holy Spirit will divinely enable us to “see exactly what it is He is calling [us] to do, [and] grasp the immensity of this glorious way of life He has for His followers” (Ephesians 1:18). Where is God asking you to join Him in His work in your life, family, church, community, and world? How can you become more aware of how God is at work around and in you already?
Ladies, our Lord calls us to a singular focus: Himself. This takes intentional practice, an ever-sharpening focus, and humble realization of our desperate need for Jesus. But what reward it will bring! Like my visit to that downtown library, are we immersing ourselves in our pursuit of Him? John 10:4 says, “When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow HIM because they know his voice.” Our Lord is our guide. It is He “who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose” (Philippians 2:13). How can you begin to make adjustments, both big and small, that will orient the eyes of your heart to knowing Christ above all else? To respond to Him as the Lord works out His good pleasure in your life and draws you closer to Himself?
John Eldredge observes that it is in this state of wholehearted, spiritual concentration that we are truly given “eyes to see.” He writes in his book Waking the Dead, “Isn’t that what Jesus offered us – clarity? Recovery of sight for the blind? We need clarity, and we need it badly. A simple prayer rises from my heart: Jesus, take away the fog and the clouds and the veil, and help me to see…give me eyes to really see.” Are you willing, with eyes focused and clear, to seek the Lord with your entire being? To give Him your full concentration as you study His Word? To respond to His presence in your life by lifting up your heart to Him throughout the day? To watch and listen for His leading? To turn your eyes upon HIM? May we all with God-given clarity “grasp the immensity of this glorious way of life He has for His followers, the utter extravagance of His work in us who trust Him…”
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