A New Way of Seeing
August 30, 2016
By Sister Anna Marie Saltzman, director of campus ministry at Merion Mercy Academy
Have you ever had an incident that transformed your way of seeing? By the grace of our Merciful God, I have. It occurred at the end of my first full day of retreat. After the evening meal, I decided to take a walk along a trail in the nearby state park. Prior to leaving the retreat house, I sprayed myself with insect repellant to ward off pests and headed outdoors.
I was conscious of my desires to be open to God in whatever way God wanted to communicate. I was also conscious of how “busy” I had been prior to the retreat; the pace and numerous activities that had kept me from processing events and relationships in my life. My mind was on overdrive, and the walk would help me get out of my head.
As I walked, I wasn’t aware of my pace or of the natural beauty surrounding the planked walkway that traversed the wooded marsh swamp on which I walked. Suddenly, I was startled out of my thoughts by a quick bump on my forehead, and I heard the buzzing sound of a greenhead fly circling me. I swatted at the pest, saying, “Get out of here, what are you doing here?” (How silly of me, after all I was in her/his habitat, and I was prey!) I quickened my pace, hoping to leave the little pest in my wake. No such luck; my nemesis kept diving toward my head, my face and past my ears and I kept swatting while moving quickly, hoping to get away, until I swatted one last time and everything blurred …
I had swatted my eyeglasses right off my face, and they went flying. I stopped dead in my tracks and blinked my eyes, trying to focus. Although I could see, everything was a blur. I felt a bit of panic at my situation and spontaneously said, “O dear Jesus, I can’t see, I need my glasses.” I became calm. Even though my situation hadn’t changed, my affect had. I was present in the moment. I looked on the walkway, hoping that maybe my glasses had fallen on the path. No, they weren’t on the path which meant that they were in the thicket. I looked around, hoping another walker was coming along who could help me look, but there was no one.
I spoke to God: “So what is it that you are trying to tell me? Do you want me to go home from retreat? I can see enough to drive, but not enough to read. I could stay for the retreat and not read, simply listen and possibly journal. It would be difficult to go through the next week with blurred vision. Let me know what to do, what you want, what you are saying. O my God, I know that you are with me; I’d really like to stay on retreat and to be with you; you know my heart and what I need even more than I know myself.”
I then knelt down on the pathway, closed my eyes, breathed deeply and became very still.
In that moment, I sensed a great oneness with God, with those persons and events in life, with my surroundings and with myself. I sensed a blessed assurance that all would be well no matter what the outcome. I experienced a joyful calm and peace within.
I opened my eyes; still my vision was blurred. I remained on one knee and once again peered into the thicket. I could see only the browns and greens of the earth and vegetation and then a thin, cream white line about two inches long appeared within the green. I tried to focus on it. Was it exposed bark of a branch, or … Yes! It was an arm of my glasses, hanging on a bush about four feet away from me. I stretched out to reach for them. I wasn’t long enough, in spite of my large frame and long arms. I looked on the ground beneath the walkway and could see a thorny stick about a foot long within reach; it was the only thing available. I reached down and grasped the stick, getting pricked as I did. Stretching out again, I carefully placed the stick at the joint of the arm of the glasses, and the lovely thorn that pricked me held the glasses in place as I lifted them to myself.
“O, thank you, Jesus,” was all I could say, as I held the glasses in my hand, glad to have them back, and jubilantly conscious of God’s merciful presence and care for me and for all that is.
Placing the glasses on my face, I could see clearly and I sensed God inviting me to look at all of life through the lenses of love and mercy; to see the “annoying flies” and the “prickly thorns,” whatever or whomever they may be, through the lenses of love and mercy. For as I do, I will begin to see them as God sees them, and this will affect how I relate and respond to them. I sense God saying to me, “Know that ‘all shall be well, and all manner of things, shall be well’” (Julian of Norwich).