Rob and I went snorkeling once. We were on a beach in the tropics, so we rented masks and flippers and high-stepped our way into crystal turquoise water that was as pristine and smooth as a newly-made bed.
We had been promised colorful fish but on that balmy day, nothing moved that I could see; the glasslike water was undisturbed. Surely there wasn’t anything below the surface. I had been in pools; I knew what that felt like. But we made our way out to where the coral was, just in case.
Then we dipped our heads underwater and instantly I was in another universe, transported like something out of Star Trek. Surrounded by boundaryless water, I could not tell where I was. I forgot there was air only inches above my head. I did not know if I would be swept out to sea by currents I couldn’t feel. I grabbed Rob’s hand and didn’t let go. My eyes adjusted to the watery light, and suddenly there were iridescent fish and lacy coral reefs and plants waving in the current. It was alive and beautiful.
Emerging out of that watery universe back to light and air, I was struck wondering how it’s possible that these two distinct worlds could exist a millimeter away from each other, without ceasing, all the time. The two worlds were stacked on each other and I never knew until I stuck my head under and looked.
It’s funny how we take our surroundings for granted, never seeking the more that’s beside us. As Christians, we actually do live in two worlds. The “really real” is not the world we touch every day, but the invisible we see with spiritual eyes. It’s where God is, and it’s the kingdom that will last forever (Luke 1:33). God has chosen to reflect His invisible qualities throughout our physical world (Romans 1:20) for those who have eyes to see.
I don’t really look most of the time; I prefer to depend on my physical eyes. But we were meant to notice. We’re created in God’s image, meant for relationship with Him, and meant to share in everything He’s doing. When I remember to stick my head into the waters of His kingdom, I get to hold His hand and see what He’s up to.
Ways to See
Scripture is shot through with stories about activity in heavenly places and the ways humans are involved in the goings-on. For me, having spiritual eyes means that when world events happen, I try to ask God how He’s moving. If a hurricane is bearing down, how is He using this event to draw people to Himself, and what does compassion look like for those affected? What does He want me to learn about His unfathomable power? And am I reminded to run to Him when storms hit my life?
Having spiritual eyes also means I want to call out the ways I see God in you. When I see you choosing to lay down your temper instead of cutting off the other driver, I see God at work. When I see you on your knees as the first step in making a decision, I see God at work. There’s a family at church who is being transformed through the irresistible grace of our relentless God, and whenever I see them, my soul warms and expands like butter on toast, because God is shining in them.
In Ann Voskamp’s 1000 Gifts, she writes that learning to thank God for everything is the key to spiritual eyesight. The more I develop the habit of seeing His hand in the smallest things, like a bird outside my window or the first sip of my early-morning coffee, or the strength to climb onto the treadmill… again, the more I am reminded that He is always, always at work.
And just like that day in the tropics, with my feet in the coral & my face in the air, I am learning what it means to live as an inhabitant of a physical world which is itself surrounded by a spiritual reality. It’s finally easy to see that the same God made both worlds, and made them exquisite.