The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! - Matthew 6:22-23
Recently a friend and I were discussing these words of Jesus. I had read them many times before, and I suppose had always taken them at face value – a reminder that our eyes are windows to our souls and that if we fill our vision with things that are wrong, we do harm to our souls.
But my friend had a different take on this passage. He got me thinking about the difference between the things we humans create and the kind of world God has created, and of the adverse effect our “creations” have on us as they enter our souls through our eyes.
In our modern world, we are increasingly hemmed in by what we have created. Wherever we live, and especially in the cities, it is difficult at best to get outside the artificial confines we live and work in. How easily we can fill our “eyes” with images that are not only evil but unreal.
It is bad enough how we adults are affected by all the visual media before us, but it is truly frightening to see the growing number of children who spend countless hours online. As ever-younger children lose themselves in their virtual worlds, I cringe not only at the thought of all that is allowed to enter their “eyes”, but also at what is lost to them in those precious childhood hours.
So where does God’s creation fit into this? God is a God of life and light. By immersing ourselves into nature we can experience real life and healing, and in so doing become purified of all that stresses and depresses us. This is because nature is God’s creation, not man’s, and what God creates renews and restores.
I personally know of no better way to be inwardly refreshed than to get outside into nature. Children around the world naturally testify to this every day. But when I think about today’s children’s play equipment, for instance, I wonder how much our children are missing. What’s wrong with a toddler’s trike, a school girl’s bike, a boy’s skateboard – don’t they encourage outdoor play and physical fitness? Undoubtedly, but they can also divert children from connecting with the creative forces of nature.
My wife and I live in rural Australia, surrounded by wide paddocks and gumtree copses. Children here spend a lot of their time playing in nature. Recently, we were passing by the school grounds during play time and were accosted by third and fourth graders who invited us to attend an impromptu “concert.” These children had created a “bush band.” They did it with sticks, baler twine, old fencing wire, pine cones, and you name it – whatever they discovered under the trees where they happened to be playing.
Soon there were various “instruments” made out of this stuff: guitars, violins, a horn, and a harp, just to mention a few. A big stump became the stage, and a stick with a piece of string tied to it turned into a microphone. One child emceed, introducing the others, and they were off, making music and singing at the top of their lungs. They got so inspired that they wound up expanding the concert into a program which they put on for their parents.
What joy these children had with only the very basics of God’s creation and their imagination! And what joy so many other children are missing simply because they know only what is delivered to them on a screen or in the mall.
Jesus warned: “If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” The light of God’s creation far surpasses any lights we can manufacture. And this is why many more of us need to get out into nature and fill our eyes and hearts with what God has made.
If you have children, take them with you to places where they can be let loose in nature with their imagination. If you live in a city, don’t feel excluded: find a park, sit under a tree, watch for birds, discover tiny insects. In this way, our bodies, and our souls, will begin to be filled with true light – light that heals and fills the heart with joy.
Randy Gauger lives with his wife Linda at the Danthonia Bruderhof, in New South Wales, Australia, where he enjoys spending time working with school children creating a “nature preserve” to foster native wildlife.