Learning to See

Posted by Nick Wilkes

I learned to walk when I was around one-year-old. It was a huge accomplishment for me at the time. After all, I had only started a couple of months earlier with rolling over, then scooting, then my much admired and often mimicked crawling technique that involved keeping my knees off of the ground while my hind end was way up in the air. It’s hard to describe in words, but it resembled an inch worm that didn’t touch the ground in the middle. I know, to many it looked awkward, but for me it was efficient and paved the way toward getting up on my feet.

After a time of wobbling and toddling about, my gait became much more efficient, but I didn’t stop there. I continued improving on my walking fundamentals as I learned to skip, gallop, dance, run, and jump. I’m thankful for the people in my life that helped me learn and master these foundational aspects of life that I still use every day. After all, it would just be awkward for everyone if I had been content to stay with my crawling technique for the last 28 years and continued to crawl into the office each day, hind end up in the air to save my knees.

We learn early on to walk because it’s so much more efficient than an awkward crawl. We learn to interpret the sounds around us as speech or music out of a desire to communicate or to really appreciate a piece of music. We pretty quickly through our sense of taste that we don’t especially like prunes, but that we do enjoy a good piece of apple pie. We learn through our sense of touch why it’s not a good idea to lick a frosty metal flag pole in the winter, or how much we appreciate a hug from dad or mom. We learn by our sense of smell to appreciate the unmistakable fragrance of a hyacinth, and we also learn about pungent odors that send us running.

We’ve probably continue to give a thought or two to what to touch or not touch. We know what we like the taste of, or the foods that we absolutely refuse to eat. We’ve learned the smells that bring us pleasure, and those that we don’t love so much. We’ve probably thought about the kind of music that we like to listen to, and that which drives us nuts. But how do we learn to see? How do we learn to not just look at things, pr people, or ideas, but to really see them.

How I’ve learned to see isn’t something that throughout my life I’ve stopped to think  a lot about.  However I recognize without a doubt that of all the other senses God has given me, how I see the things that I see all around me and what I do because of what I see has a lot of influence on what I do and how I live.

Learning to walk has been a pretty useful skill, but it’s something I haven’t really been working on a lot lately.  Learning to see, however, although it has been something I’ve been doing longer than I’ve been walking, is a skill I’m still continuing to try to improve.

Learning to see, like learning to walk, is a difficult process. Sometimes I think I see things the way they are, only to find out I was completely wrong. Other times I see right through the way something at first appears, to what’s really going on underneath. Sometimes I don’t know how to even begin to interpret or act on what I see.

C.S. Lewis gives me some perspective on seeing. He said,

“You can’t go on seeing through things forever. The whole point of seeing through something is to see something through it. It is good that the window should be transparent, because the street or garden below is opaque. How if you saw through the garden too? It is no use trying to “see through” first principles. If you see through everything then everything is transparent. But a wholly transparent world is an invisible world. To “see through” all things is the same as not to see.”

C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man (New York: Macmillan, 1974), 91.

May we all have eyes to see the things that matter most as day by day we work on seeing well.

2 Corinthians 4:18

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (NIV)

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