Close Your Eyes - by Cindy Shoaff

Feb 10, 2016


       Some things about where I live are not like where I’ve come from.  While it’s true that people are people no matter where they live, what they speak, or how they look, sometimes being immersed in a world and culture that is not my own, is strange.  If I’m honest, it’s sometimes frustrating.  It can also be hilarious at times.  And many days, it is simply puzzling. 

       Recently, I noticed something that until now I had never thought much about.  When people pray out loud here, as they get ready to begin the prayer, they almost always say – “Let’s close our eyes and pray.”  This struck me as interesting because normally we Americans only tell people to close their eyes, when we are talking to children.  We tell kids to “fold your hands, bow your head, and close your eyes”, but as we grow older, these ‘instructions’ are no longer mandatory and we do not feel the need to direct others to do this before we pray.  I wondered about this for a while.  Why do adults tell one another to in fact close their eyes?  Is it for the same reason we tell children – so they will not be distracted by others in the room?  Is it simply the way they learned to do it as a child and so they repeat the “lines” as adults without considering that it may not need to be said?  Do people really think it is important that we literally close our eyes in order to “really” pray?  I’m not really sure. 

       As I kicked this question around inside my head, I came up with my own answer.  Closing our eyes to see God and hear from God is sometimes very necessary.  Here in Haiti, the realities of life can be extremely harsh, painful, exhausting, troubling, and trying.  When we come to talk to God, we need to close our eyes for a moment to the worries, pressures, fears, problems, and uncertainties of our present circumstances.  We need to just see Him for a moment.  Reminding one another to “close our eyes” to the world and to ourselves, and to instead see Jesus, is good advice. 

       But, sometimes, when our eyes are closed and we are just trying to see God, He will say, “Open your eyes.”  We might not want to.  He may insist. 

       This is exactly where I find myself today.  Living in Haiti means we see things.  We see poverty.  We see abuse.  We see neglect and abandonment.  Sometimes we see hints of these things, and sometimes we see it all up close and in color.  Sometimes we see things and we are overwhelmed, confused and tormented by the brokenness and wrongness in front of us.  When this happens, I find myself wanting to close my eyes.  But today, I feel God is taking me to a place where He is saying, “It’s time for you to look.  I want you to see what I see.  I want you to look and then keep looking, because you need to know.  You need to feel all you’ll feel.  You need to not be able to fix it or make it go away.  Seeing this, will bring new meaning to my promise of redemption.”  It’s true.  The pain and hopelessness I see here, helps me understand the desperate way we all cling to the promises of Jesus. 

       God is teaching me that sometimes I need to close my eyes to truly see Him.  And sometimes, I must open them.