"Open the eyes of my heart Lord,
open the eyes of my heart,
I want to see You,
I want to see You..."
- Paul Baloche
Have you ever heard a song that just takes you in and makes you part of its message, and its culture? Michael W. Smith's performance of "Open the Eyes of My Heart" does this for me. It's not much of a stretch to begin with. I love Contemporary Christian music. But there is something about this song that makes me want to stand, and pray with my hands open... held high to receive the grace of the Lord.
I remember the first time I heard it. It was the fall of 2001 and we were all, still, reeling from the shocking events of September 11th. I'd happened on a local inspirational radio station one morning after dropping the girls off at preschool. The songs were beautiful and full of comfort. But their gentle tone only perpetuated my feelings of sorrow and confusion...none of it made any sense to me that morning. It was a gorgeous autumn day...cloudless, Aegean blue skies, soft yellow leaves just beginning to turn, pansies still spilling out of clay pots and window boxes...and yet, we were in mourning. Every song that came on was a somber response to that collective sorrow.
It hurt. Everything hurt. Like most everyone I knew, I vacillated between human heartbreak and spiritual clarity. Children were having nightmares, I was exhausted from sleepless nights spent on the phone with friends who were afraid and angry, and nothing seemed to lift the pall of gray ash that had drifted west from New York, and settled heavily on our hearts. Even the birds seemed to have stopped singing.
That was when "Open the Eyes of My Heart" came through on the radio. It not only spoke to what I longed for...an open heart, but also reminded me of what I needed to set my focus on...the things of the heart. I knew that this was the only place I would find Him, God. This was the place of His sovereignty. He ruled it with a song. And then there was that sound...pure joy. So full of expectancy, surrender, and hope. It seemed to lift my spirits with each repeat of the chorus.
An easy song to sing along with, I was in full voice by the time I reached the next stoplight. I rolled down the windows and turned up the volume. I sang out to the birds, I sang to the men planting mums in the freshly-tilled berms of dark rich soil on either side of the shopping center entryway to my right. I sang to the sorrowing, the angry, the hopeless, and the helpless. I sang to myself and I sang to my neighbors. I sang for my family and I sang for strangers. I just sang. By the second chorus I was lifting my hands to heaven, tears were streaming down my face, my heart was full of hope.
The lyrics started to penetrate the coldness of my heart, the helplessness that had taken hold of me by the back of the neck and wouldn't stop shaking me to the marrow of my bones.
I felt strong and empowered. I now had my own protest song against the oppression of fear and anger, hopelessness and terrorism, retribution and revenge. I sang it loud. I sang it strong. I opened the eyes of my heart, and I looked...and what I saw was remarkable. I saw the man in the car next to me, and he was smiling at his young child. Another driver allowed someone else to pull in front of him, so that they could make a left-hand turn, at the last minute. The barista at the Starbucks, listened patiently to an older woman who was visibly rattled, and had changed her order about five times before she felt she'd gotten it right. I saw senators on the left "yield to my colleague on the right," and news correspondents were rising above the political leanings of their networks in reporting the truth.
The eyes of my heart were opened to the love, the kindness, the integrity, the compassion that was being expressed all around me...and, that I now believe, had been there all along. The eyes of my heart, when brought into spiritual focus, saw things cast in a softer light, possessing a kinder texture, reflecting an expanded, more compassionate spectrum of colors, races, religions, and beliefs. I don't think I closed them again for a very long time...and when the eyes of your heart are open...you don't feel exhausted by the view, but refreshed.
A deep physical ache, one that I hadn't found relief from for a number of days, disappeared without note as the heartache of feeling helpless in the aftermath of 911 dissolved. In its place was the depth of peace that only comes when we know that an all-powerful God, good...who is Love, and is the source of all being...is at the core of every man, woman, and child's thoughts, motives, and acts.
Seeing things through the "eyes of my heart" was what, I think, Mary Baker Eddy was speaking of when she wrote,
"When speaking of God's children, not the children of men, Jesus said, "The kingdom of God is within you; that is, Truth and Love reign in the real man, showing that man in God's image is unfallen and eternal. Jesus beheld in Science the perfect man, who appeared to him where sinning mortal man appears to mortals. In this perfect man the Saviour saw God's own likeness, and this correct view of man healed the sick. Thus Jesus taught that the kingdom of God is intact, universal, and that man is pure and holy."
I really love that Eddy uses the word "beheld," rather than "saw," in this statement. The definition of the word "behold" includes: "to see, and call attention to." It offers the spiritual thinker a non-passive, deeply active, role in response to all the ugliness that would parade itself before us as "reality," and implies a divine imperative upon the seer...to live out from that perspective, and in doing so, to actively share it with others.
This statement became my spiritual, Love-impelled manifesto, and along with "Open the Eyes of My Hearth" and Smith's other 2001 anthem for the spiritual revolutionary, "Awesome God," I felt fully prepared for singing and praying my way through the ashes of 911. Together with my regular Bible study, insights gleaned from the writings of Mary Baker Eddy, and inspiration from other spiritual texts and songs, my heart was garrisoned in God's fortress of love, hope, peace...and joy.
This morning, over eight years later, I found myself listening to Smith's "Open the Eyes of My Heart" again with spiritual purpose, but for very different reasons. However, my internal response was the same. I started singing, my hands went up in praise, and I felt like I was part of a great congregation of worshippers, ready for the blessing of divine grace...even while sitting alone in my office.
A great song can do that to you...
Kate Robertson, CS
Since so many readers have written notes letting me know how much they like the Randy Travis version of "Open the Eyes of My Heart"...I thought I'd add this link to his performance.
offered with love,