“We become what we behold.” – English poet and painter William Blake
There was this thrilling moment Friday night. I stood between my daughters and our friends, surrounded by fifty thousand singing Taylor Swift fans during the finale of her concert. The entire stadium twinkled and flashed like the Northern Lights, fireworks erupted and my girls danced. Yet somehow, in the middle of this euphoric finale, I noticed Taylor Swift’s tiny, toned arms and began scolding myself for an undisciplined body. Lame, I know. My insecurities shouldn’t spoil that moment. So I shook the thought from my head. (“Cause you know you gotta shake it off, shake it off.”)
But how often do we let yearning ruin the day?
Desirous thoughts plague us more often than we admit. Someone else has what we want: a tiny waist, a large income, a stylish ease, a magnetic personality. We aren’t content to simply appreciate the good in our neighbor’s life. No. We hungrily stare at whatever thing we wish we had. Instead of seeing our neighbor as a person — a soul worthy of love — we instead see them as a single attribute: a body type, a talent, an owner of something desirable.
The attribute or item we want becomes our focus.
Scripture says we become like the thing we stare at. And we have two options.
1) We can stare at idols and become like them:
“Their gods are metal and wood, handmade in a basement shop: Carved mouths that can’t talk, painted eyes that can’t see, tin ears that can’t hear, molded noses that can’t smell, hands that can’t grasp, feet that can’t walk or run, throats that never utter a sound. Those who make them have become just like them, have become just like the gods they trust.” Psalm 115:4-8 (The Message)
2) Or we can stare at God and become like Him:
“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.” 2 Corinthians 3:18a
There’s a chicken-and-egg truth going on here:
- What we look at shapes what we desire. Looking at home magazines makes me want a well-decorated home. Seeing slender and toned women makes me wish for that same body. Reading Scripture makes me desire Jesus.
- What we desire shapes what we look at. I watch the movies that fascinate me. I pick concerts based on the music I enjoy. I select books based on a topic or author I’m intrigued by. I pray often when my heart feels affectionate towards God.
And in the end, we become like whatever we behold.
The more we look at God, the more we want Him. And the more we become like Him.
The more we look at worldly things, the more we desire them. And our hearts transform to be like the temporal things we behold: susceptible to decay and blind and deaf to the beauty of God.
So what do we do? We look at God. Looking at God means constantly and intentionally reminding ourselves who Jesus is. This includes prayer, reading Scripture, listening to worship music, or filling our minds with every reason we’re grateful to Him.
Inevitably, our eyes will fall on distraction. We’ll visit a friend’s beautiful home and covet. We’ll read a story of success in the news and fume that our moment hasn’t come. And that is when we have to see God through even the earthly thing you desire. I know that sounds confusing. Here’s a practical example:
What if you’re jealous of your extremely talented best friend. Do you dump her to save yourself from making an idol of her talent? No. You ask God to open your eyes to see her in a new way. Instead of seeing her as competition and a source of your own insecurity, you see her as a soul loved by God and nurtured by friendships like yours. You thank God for her talents. You lovingly meet her needs.
Here’s the truth: humans are no good at keeping their eyes or hearts on Jesus. But thank God, it isn’t completely up to us. Tell God your impure desires and all the temporal things you feast your eyes upon. And then ask Him to make you desire Him, and help you daily gaze upon Him. He is faithful. He can make us faithful, too.