The Bible tells us that the righteous live by faith, not by sight, but that is easier said than done; after all, it’s easier to trust what we can see than what we cannot. Some reference this verse as basis for the claim that faith is blind, but it isn’t! Living by faith, doesn’t mean we close our eyes and minds to what we are able to see and comprehend; it simply means that in addition to acknowledging the visible, we also believe there is more beyond it and choose to live for and according to that larger reality.
But the truth is that even what we can see isn’t always trustworthy, mainly because we don’t see everything. Sometimes things stay hidden for a while—or forever—and other times we just stop seeing. We can be looking at a deeper truth—be in a face-to-face stare-down with something previously hidden but now revealed—and never see it, because we have allowed ourselves to believe that what is apparent on the surface is all there is to see, and so we simply stop seeing. But faith tells us there is actually more, and living by it requires us to train our mind’s eye not to settle for what is visible, but to go digging for what is hidden behind, beneath, on the periphery, or in any of the minute yet infinite spaces in between.
Consider those Magic Eye images that were all the rage in the 90s. You remember: the ones that look like random 2D computer patterns but that actually contain 3D images only visible to those who are able to consciously shift how their eyes focus (on the “distance” behind the surface pattern rather than on the pattern itself). The ability to override the eyes’ automatic focus reflexes does not always come easily; in fact, some never master it, mainly because they give up. But that doesn’t mean the hidden images and scenes cease to be there. Because they are there, whether or not we see or acknowledge them. Knowing that and choosing to continue trying to train the brain to take over conscious control of an automatic muscle function—well that is an act of faith, a choice determined by what is unseen rather than what is presented at first sight or first effort.
No, faith is not blind. It is simply a different kind of vision, one that requires a lot of intense training over the span of a lifetime. That training comes, more often than not, in the form of a choice, forced though it may be: the choice to walk wide-eyed into each moment expectant and in search of the hidden things that will eventually be revealed only after we take the step. It is the choice to say yes to the hard stuff that will be required of us in our search for those hidden things, even when we have no inkling that they even exist, let alone what they may be. Faith understands that first-sight is not only-sight and that it may not even be accurate, and it requires a suspension of judgement and a divine level of patience that bring us face-to-face with our own insufficiency.
Art challenges our sight, our vision, our paradigms for interpretation. Creating art, on the other hand, challenges our faith. It propels us into the battle for the hidden things in our own lives. At least that has been my experience with the creation process, especially with writing. When I read what others write, I am challenged to reconsider my conclusions about life, my paradigms, and my preconceived notions about the human experience; I am challenged to see what they see. But when I write, I am challenged to see what is still invisible in my internal landscape, and then to make it visible.
Writing is where faith rules and trains my sight to see the truer realities that exist beyond, that inhabit the space underneath, behind, above, on the periphery, and in all those in-betweens.
I could easily accept the surface-level narrative offered to me for what it appears to be, but if I want the real story, then I must go to battle for it on the page. I must fight to get past what I see with my eyes to immerse myself in the vastness beyond the limitations of my human nearsightedness.
I have been told that to be a writer, one just needs to write. Write, write, write! Write what you see; write what you feel; free write, journal, jot down thoughts and half-thoughts. It doesn’t matter if it’s bad or good, just get it on the page or on the screen. Exercising the writing and imaginative muscles is what strengthens them over time and theoretically equips a writer to eventually produce good content. And I agree with that theory. Until it’s time to make myself sit down and actually put it into practice.
For some, the activity of writing is more enjoyable than for others, and for some, the biggest dilemma is which of their many ideas to explore and flesh out first. I know I’m supposed to write—Pops has made that clear—but it isn’t usually enjoyable for me; it’s more like a battle. And my biggest dilemma hasn’t been that I have too many ideas. In fact, until recent months, it was that I really had no ideas at all. So making myself sit down to do it is really hard, almost scary: What if I really don’t have any ideas, and what if I can’t get any words out? Then suddenly a story appeared in my mind, and it came out fairly easily. Whether or not it is good writing is always debatable, but that isn’t really what’s important to me right now. The important thing is, I wrote something. I walked into the battle being waged between the visible and the invisible, and I won. The words on the screen document that fact, and regardless of what anyone else thinks of that story, I think it’s breathtaking because of what it took to produce it and because of the invisible realities and truths it brings to sight.
Months passed, and then suddenly another story came—a continuation of the first one, which surprised me, since I believed the first was just a one-off. This new one was shorter, simpler, yet significantly harder to work out. Hard enough to make me cry actual tears, but important enough to the training of my faith that I could not walk away from it. So, once again I went to battle. Wounds were exposed, but safe places were also established. The battle I fought once again lives on the screen in words I can see with my physical eyes, and the victory contained therein astounds me even more than the first did.
A few more weeks passed, and again, when I was certain this sudden spurt of story-writing was still just an anomaly, Pops said, “There’s more. Go ahead, my daughter.” Only this time, I know it won’t be a one-off, and I know now that what seemed like isolated one-offs were actually parts of something bigger. He has not given me the entire outline, but instead has invited me to journey through it with Him one step, one scene, one battle at a time. And I have a choice to make. I know my heart will bleed, I will shed tears, this will hurt, and it will be hard. Do I run away? Or do I put my hand in His and jump into the vast as-yet unseen?
Writing is becoming my trust fall. It’s where I work out my salvation with fear and trembling. It’s how I learn to walk by eyes-wide-open faith and to defy the limitations of status-quo, surface-level living. Writing is also becoming my fight song. The hardest step to take every time I am beckoned back to the page is saying yes, but every word already birthed is a reminder that the yes is worth it, that choosing faith over sight is worth it.
And so I write. I write to find the life preserver, to cling to my Rescuer, to peer beyond, to defy limitations, to exercise my voice, to walk by faith and not by sight, to uncover the life of freedom I’ve been promised and live it indeed.