I was mid-condemnation when I felt it. Like a scratch in my right eye that wouldn’t go away. Was it a speck of dust? A fleck of mascara? Whatever it was, it was annoying and making it harder to concentrate on the conversation I was in. But I persisted in accusing my friend and justifying myself as the “righteous one” who just wants people to be loved. I was so bent out of shape by what was happening when I suddenly became aware of how much I was hurting the other person. So…
The conversation ended. Backs turned, doors closed, and tears welling up on both sides. Silence.
And I was still left with that stupid thing in my eye.
Wait…what’s that one passage in the bible about specks and eyes that we’re all familiar with on some level?
“Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”1
Do not miss the irony in this. I still feel dumbfounded. In the middle of trying to press upon and expose someone else’s “dust,” I ended up feeling the log in my own eye. Like…literally.
But…it’s impossible to have a log in your eye. Dust yes…but a log? C’mon. But! I think anyone who’s had anything stuck in their eye can tell you – whatever it is feels so much bigger than reality. Dust feels like a log. Tiny exfoliating beads from facewash feel like tree branches. Maybe that’s why those things are so hard to get out…because you’re looking for this huge oppressive object when in reality, it’s the tiniest little thing that exasperates our eyes.
And it’s the tiniest little things that exasperate our hearts. Such small things.
Bitterness. Desire2. Envy. Self-centeredness. Malice. Pride.
These are small things that our small hearts feed off of. They sell us short of the abundant love that creates the abundant life we are invited into. They are specks of dust in our eye that make us overreact, project, rage, self-indulge, and belittle. They offer us nothing but scratches and blurry vision. And when we feel their sting they feel so much bigger than anything we could ever deal with.
So what happened to my dust-inflicted eye? I tried to go about my day but I was constantly distracted by whatever was scratching my eye and the gnawing feeling in my own heart that something went really wrong. I tried to roll around my eyeball, put the tiniest specks of water in it, gently wipe it away and out. But nothing worked.
Finally, in desperation, I went to the bathroom and just stuck my eye under the faucet and turned it on. Victory! No more speck! But I was a mess…make up everywhere, water in my nose. I had never felt better. I needed a good old fashioned get-the-crap-out kind of flush.
And how our hearts need that too! We can’t “manage” judgmentalism. We can’t “discipline” ourselves out of gossip. We won’t convince ourselves to stop accusing each other. We have to get to the bottom of it and we have to flush it out. We have to stop long enough to peel of the layers of self-protection we’ve put on our specks and reveal them for what they are…and get them out of us. We can’t do that when we’re trying to achieve right behavior. That only happens when we let ourselves be exposed in silence. What bitterness do you carry that causes you to spew venom at everyone around you? What unfulfilled longing makes you cut everyone else down so you can secure yourself? What shame have you shouldered that makes you place shame on other’s shoulders? What ill was done to you that causes you to hurt others?
Expose it to the cleansing waters of God. Flush it out. It’s so small compared to the immeasurable riches of love.
And when it gets flushed out, I promise, you’ll be a mess. But you’ll see so much clearer and breathe so much deeper when the small things that exasperate your heart are replaced with a big, bright, and beautiful love. When bitterness is replaced with goodness, when desire is removed with joy, when envy gets lost in peace, when self-centeredness makes way for patience and faithfulness, when malice becomes kind, and pride turns to humble gentleness – then you can cry and hug and forgive and laugh and remember that we’re all broken and failing to love…and, in fact, it’s only when our hearts are being flushed out and exposed that we can ever actually truly love.
I don’t know about you, but that’s the kind of heart I long to have. Love help me.