Week of January 23, 2013

Dr. Todd B. Jones

My Dear Friends,

One of my Christmas gifts this year was the book, Great Soul, Joseph Lelyveld’s Pulitzer Prize winning biography of Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhi is revered in most circles, almost to the point of hagiography. But Anita Desai says of Lelyveld’s work, “The picture that emerges in Great Soul is of someone intensely human, with all the defects and weaknesses that suggests, but also a visionary with a profound social conscience and courage who gave the world a model for nonviolent revolution that is still inspiring.” I love how this picture of Gandhi comes into focus in one little vignette.

Gandhi once stepped on a train in India as it started to move and in his haste one of his shoes slipped off and dropped back on the tracks. Unable to retrieve it, he calmly took off the other shoe and threw it back along the track to land as close as he could make it to the first. When a stunned passenger asked why he had done that, Gandhi smiled and said, “The poor man who finds the one shoe lying on the track will now have a pair he can use.” Gandhi looked at the situation in a moment of great decision with eyes of imagination. With his imagination, Gandhi lost sight of simply the inconvenience of losing a shoe. Instead, his heart and mind were filled with a vision of a man with bare feet. In an instant, Gandhi saw that man coming upon a lone shoe and desparately searching for the other. He saw in his mind’s eye the disappointment and frustration on that man’s face when he could only find one shoe. Seeing all of this, unseen to someone with a smaller heart or a less vivid imagination, Gandhi did what little he could to help. He allowed his own loss of a shoe to turn into the gift of a pair of shoes to someone for whom it would come as a great gift. To turn our losses into others’ blessings is the stuff that few can ever do, but it is the heart of Jesus’ life story. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son…”

The Bible teaches, “Without a vision, the people perish.” We can choose the eyes through we which we decide to see our lives. We can simply look at life through eyes of loss and focus forlornly upon what we no longer possess. We can focus upon our own limitations and feel small and diminished. We can focus upon our lack of control and imagine ourselves to be powerless. But each time we do, we sell ourselves short, and we deprive the world of the gifts God has given to us uniquely to share.

I prefer Mahatma Gandhi’s example. We can always envision a better world, if not for ourselves, then at least for someone else. We can ask God for vision, a gift that God seems eager to grant to us. When we see the world through God’s eyes, we see a world not limited by problems, but one that is open to divine possibility. When we see life through God’s eyes, we see needs that can be met, people we can touch, lives we can bless. And in the giving of ourselves to the world God helps us to see, we are the ones who are blessed, enlarged and deepened.

This is the miracle and mystery of the Gospel. Jesus says in all four Gospels these perplexing and paradoxical words: “For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.” These words surely enshrine one of the deepest truths we can discover. It is in the giving of ourselves that we receive life’s most valuable gifts.

May God give to us all eyes to see the world more the way Christ sees it. And may God give us hearts that beat for the things that quicken the very heart of Jesus.

With Love and Prayers,

Todd Jones

 

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