How often do we look up? How many times do we find ourselves gazing into the beauty of the sky? Especially during times when our hearts are heavy with pain and confusion, looking down just seems to come naturally. The more troubled we are, the more downward our focus. I can think of times when my whole posture collapsed inward: back bent, shoulders drawn forward, my neck bowed until my chin nearly rested on my chest. It’s nearly impossible to draw a full, deep breath in a position like that.
But, look upward and our lungs expand, filled with fresh breath. When we lift our eyes to the heavens the rest of our body will follow suit. The chin raises. The neck uncurls. Shoulders are drawn into proper alignment, and backs straighten to bring the whole body into a healthier, stronger stance. Look upward and everything changes, including our outlook. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? The problem is that it doesn’t come naturally for us. We need something to cause us to look upward. We need something to draw our eyes.
Drawing the eye. It’s not an art assignment or a study in anatomy. Drawing the eye is a term used in landscape design. It refers to the intentional act of developing certain parts of the landscape to cause the viewer to look from one area to another. Drawing the eye leads the one looking at the garden to gradually transfer their gaze from one part to another, taking in the beauty of the whole garden rather than just focusing on one segment. Without the ability to draw the eye to another area or another level, a landscape can appear fairly flat and one-dimensional.
As I began to study landscape design I learned about under-plantings, particularly in the form of vines and smaller, ornamental trees like dogwoods or Japanese maples. Without under-plantings, I discovered we have a tendency to keep our focus at ground level. Even if a landscape is blessed with majestic oaks or other towering trees, their canopies are raised so high above us that we rarely look up to enjoy their beauty… unless our eyes are drawn in that direction.
So, what causes us to look up? If our natural tendency is to focus downward, what does it take to lift up our eyes in the spiritual sense? As I began writing this post more than two weeks ago, I was stumped when I came to that question. I wasn’t sure I had the answer. But God knew, and He showed me through the post of a writer I have begun to follow – Sarah Bessey.
In one of her blog posts, Sarah made a statement that God used to reveal Himself to me, and to answer that question I kept asking: What draws our eyes to Him?
The beautiful thing about goodness, like any gift from heaven, is that it opens eyes and draws the hearts of people towards the source of that goodness: our God. — Sarah Bessey
There was the answer to the question I kept asking God. Goodness is the under-planting that draws the downcast eyes of the hurting heavenward.
The kind acts that the Holy Spirit leads us to do for others are the things that cause them to look up. Why? Because kind acts or kind words are so out-of-the-ordinary. Those good works, good acts and good deeds are attention-getters. They’re like the stunning blooms of a vine that winds its way heavenward, punctuating the void of the unplanted spaces between ground level and treetop canopy.
That’s exactly what we’ve been planted to be and to do. We are to be under-plantings, bearing the beautiful blooms of good acts and good words that draw the eyes of others upward to the Source of all goodness. And during those times when we are the weary and hurting ones whose eyes need to be lifted up, we can trust God to send an under-planting of goodness our way. Especially during this Thanksgiving season, let’s make a point to thank them for blooming where they’ve been planted.
In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your Heavenly Father. (Matthew 5:16, NLT)
I lift up my eyes to the mountains — where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. (Psalm 121:1-2, NIV)