(The neuroscience of faith and sanctification series)
Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and Grace
These are amazingly powerful truths. There is something amazingly meditative about this hymn. Something that I missed for decades because I wasn’t prone to meditation, mindfulness, quieting myself in the moment or receiving God’s grace. My story is probably a post for another time, but I want to reiterate a point that I try and make often- when we are steeped in performance based worth, everything regarding God becomes a task and many times it becomes a task to make us better, worth more, better in the eyes of God, better Christians, etc… Rarely do we recognize that these encounters with God are for us. We receive the benefit.
When I hear those words, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus” I think of an intentional meditative experience. I like the word “turn” it reflects a concept that I have tried to write about. We can consciously and intentionally turn our attention to something. This is a process that is often difficult for people. It is often difficult for me. As our culture becomes saturated with distraction and stimuli that part of our brain that is responsible for sustained attention becomes atrophied. But if we practice, we can strengthen our ability to focus, turning away from distraction.
There are many lies associated with the idea of spending time in God’s presence:
- It should be easy
- If I was more spiritual it would come naturally
- If I loved God more or was a better Christian I’d be able to do it better
- God will make it happen if I have enough faith or ask properly
None of these are true. The reality is that it takes “exercise” to strengthen the part of our brain responsible for being able to focus- in this case focusing on God and turning FROM other distractions.
“Look full in His wonderful face” is a great way to engage the imagination. This can be a powerful exercise and experience to imagine God. It could be an actual face, it could be eyes, a smile, I once imagined Aslan after seeing the LION, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. The important part is that as you are turning your attention to God, engage more of your brain through imagination. Maybe God “feels” like a warm blanket around you, feel free to get creative.
BUT remember that this is a process, try not to get frustrated with yourself or discouraged if you get distracted. The reality is that every time you are distracted and turn your attention back toward God you are strengthening that muscle. There are no awards for undistracted time, this isn’t a competition and God isn’t waiting to hand you a special blessing. Every time you are able to focus on Him you have an opportunity to rest from the stress of life and receive God’s grace- no matter how long or short that moment is.
AND amazingly, as our focus is on God and we choose to let go of all other thoughts- this life’s problems become strangely dim.