When I was ten years old, I remember driving through the city one spring night with my father. We were on our way to dinner and he asked me to read the words on the billboard up ahead.
But I couldn’t. It was all a colorful fuzz.
“You need glasses,” he said.
I wasn’t prepared for the hit.
How could it be? How could I be, from now on, a kid with glasses?
Looking back, I thought I was just fine. But my father knew I wasn’t. He had noticed how I moved closer to the TV, closer to the pages in my books, closer to what others could see from afar. My vision was blurry, and I needed help.
That was my first lesson in seeing. My next one came from the Bible.
The Bible talks about “the eyes of the heart” (Eph. 1:18). My physical eyes were fine at birth, though they grew worse as I aged. But original sin wrecked my spiritual eyes—the eyes of my heart—before I ever saw the light of day. My vision of God was even worse than the blurry sign on the side of the road.
My beliefs about my heavenly Father revolved around the disappointment I perceived from him. I believed he loved me, of course, but there was no way he could like me. I was a part of his family, but I rebelled and disobeyed. In my mind, that meant God took care of me because it was his duty, not because he rejoiced in it. After all, I gave the family a bad name.
As for Jesus, I believed he was a remote Savior of the past. He did something about who I used to be but seemed helpless in who I was in the present. He forgave my pre-conversion sins, but my sins since then? Well, I believed those still awaited another cross and another judgment, one I would see on the last day.
The Spirit was an impersonal force to me, issued for conviction of sin but not comfort in Christ. I felt the grief of his presence but not the gift. Fearing the spiritual light, I covered the eyes of my heart with guilt and shame. I denied the Spirit’s witness for my pity.
In short, my spiritual eyes needed a major opening.
When I got my glasses, I could see more clearly. But I had to learn to use them. I would look around the rims rather than through them, used to the old way of seeing when a new and better way was available.
One Spring day, not long after I put on my first pair of glasses, I stood in the batter’s box of my little league game, not realizing the stance I’d grown used to wasn’t open enough for the fastball coming toward my face. I looked out of the corner of my glasses, only partially seeing, and lost track of the ball. My teeth came spilling out just before the blood, as the fastball struck me square in the mouth.
I wasn’t prepared for the hit.
As I think back to this moment, I realize I once used the Bible like I used my glasses during the baseball game—only halfway. I trusted the Bible enough to tell me what to do but not enough to empower me to do it. I read it for a quick insight while missing the sweeping story. I believed it was the Word of God generally but not personally. Though looking, I wasn’t yet seeing.
And I missed the Bible’s glory.
My freshman year of college, my vision began to change. Far from home, I opened the Bible and saw what I’d never seen before. I saw that God was for me, with me, and saving me. I saw that the gospel wasn’t an idea of the past but a present reality extending into the future. I saw that Jesus’ blood covered all my sin—past, present, and future. I saw what I could not see before.
Something happened to the eyes of my heart. God’s Spirit opened them in a new way. I didn’t do it. God did. Maybe it was the newness of college, being away from home, or meeting new Christians alive to God. Whatever it was, God had another kind of newness for me: a renewed vision of himself.
I wasn’t prepared for the hit.
And when this happened, everything began shifting. My life felt turned upside down in the most wonderful way. Nothing was stable. Everything was open. But God was there, and I was trusting him with it all.
Then, God granted me more vision. The deeper I went into the Bible, the clearer my vision of his glory and grace became.
SEEING THE THRONE OF GRACE
It was 2012. Christmastime. That time of year when thoughts of God seem enhanced. Jesus’ name comes through store speakers and Linus preaches the gospel on network TV. The mystery of the incarnation heightens.
I was reading the book of Hebrews, and it was as if the Spirit was refining my spiritual eyes. The opening lines captured me as I read. “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Heb. 1:3).
I was struck. I wanted to read on, but I didn’t know what to make of this kind of glory. This God became a baby? This God upheld the world while in his mother's arms? This was too big for me.
Hebrews showed me how this big God came near. Jesus came down not to merely show off his glory, but to help me. “Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” (Heb. 2:17-18)
Here was the priestly Jesus, opening my eyes to the heart of God. There was yet more to see. I found in him a friend. I found in him a complete savior. One who knew me yet loved me, lived and died and rose again for me.
I remember as a kid saying a prayer that God would forgive me of my sins. As a teenager, I wasn’t sure he could. As an adult, I knew it was possible, but would he even want to at this point? How long can I play with grace? How many times can I plead for mercy?
But when I came around the bend to the end of Hebrews 4, I saw something breathtaking. Something all-consuming. Something endless. There was a depth I could not imagine. Forgiveness was not, after all, something I had to break into. It was as open as the sea. All I had to do was wade in. The purifying water would never stop coming.
BEHOLDING THE HELPER
Hebrews 4:14 says I have a great high priest that is for me, not against me. He's not a mediocre one. He’s not one who will die and hand his duties over to another. He’s not one who needs to sacrifice for his sins before he gets around to mine.
He offered his best for my worst.
Hebrews 4:15 says he’s not bothered by this. He holds no grudge. My priest understands me because he became like me. He identifies himself with my weaknesses and sufferings and gives help when I need it. He alone stood against all the temptation of this world without bending. When I dread crumbling, he becomes my cornerstone. When I feel alone, he reminds me he’s been there too, and he enters in to make my suffering his.
Hebrews 4:16 says this sympathetic priest grants immediate and constant access to the throne of grace. I have the confidence not of the blood of bulls and goats but of the Son of God. His passage through the heavens opened heaven to me. Commentator William Lane says I can now come to God with a “bold frankness.” I can come needy, not ready. I can come poor, not rich. I can come empty, not full. I can come—my heart must believe—when I’m in the midst of my rebellion and rejection.
When I’m on the inside of sin, wondering if Jesus is better than what this world has to offer, my priest stands in the presence of God interceding on my behalf. He reminds heaven that, despite how it may look, I’m a child of God. This is a promise that only my priest can make because he alone makes it effective. When I come to his throne, there is mercy to receive and grace to find. It's never-ending help.
When I wake up in the morning, I can’t see. My glasses lay on my bedside table, and unless I put them on my face, I will stumble out the door. But when I put them on, I can go anywhere. They make me stronger, not because they give me super powers, but because they do for me what I cannot do for myself.
Hebrews 4:14-16 does the same. When I wake up in the morning, I can’t see. I can’t see that Jesus is for me. The devil says he’s against me, and I can’t see Jesus’ love for me. But as I put on the lenses of Scripture, God makes me stronger. He reminds me that he can do what I cannot do for myself.
Like my father all those years ago, God gives me what I need to see what I must. On life’s highway, I can read the signs ahead. Each one is full of good news.
My Father gives me the eyes I need, and through them, I behold my high priest who "is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them” (Heb. 7:25).
David McLemore is an elder at Refuge Church in Franklin, Tennessee. He also works for a large healthcare corporation where he manages an application development department. He is married to Sarah, and they have three sons. Read more of David’s writing on his blog, Things of the Sort.