How averting our vision helps us see what is there

The other night, I was looking up at the sky admiring our view of the stars. It was clear and beautiful that night. I could see the Big Dipper and the Little Dipper. I could see what I thought was Venus. Then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a cluster of stars that seemed farther out than the others I was looking at. As I focused my vision to see them directly, it was as if they had disappeared. Looking slightly left or right, I could see the cluster, but looking directly at them, I could barely make them out. How strange! Of course I wanted to know why!


So, as with most things, I looked to my friend Google for answers. I learned that the most sensitive part of our retina is not in the center, but off to one side in an area called the fovea. When we look at something, like this cluster of stars, just slightly to the side, the fovea picks up what our retina in focused vision doesn’t. It even has a name… ‘averted vision.’ Astronomers do this deliberately so they can see stars in the sky more clearly. Cool huh?

So now that you’ve had a bit of a science lesson, let me tell you what spiritual lesson I found in this. 

Wisdom and perspective are often found not in focusing on a situation, but by adjusting our view away from it.

Often, I find myself praying for wisdom. “Lord give me wisdom as I walk into…” “Lord please help me to have wisdom in today’s conversation with…” Sometimes I know I need to see from someone’s else’s perspective, but I’m so focused on what I am wanting to say I lose sight of what’s really going on. I lose the wisdom piece because I’m so focused on the wrong perspective.

Richard Rohr, in his book “Falling Upward” says this:

Wisdom seeing has always sought to change the seer first, and then knows that what is seen will largely take care of itself.

So wisdom is allowing myself to see from another perspective – allowing myself to be changed rather than assuming that I need wisdom to go and change a situation or person or conversation. When I am truly seeking wisdom, I should be looking for God’s help to change the way I see things, then trust that what I see will unfold without my determined help.

Sky Round

Wisdom is a shelter, as money is a shelter, but the advantage of knowledge is this: Wisdom preserves those who have it. (Ecclesiastes 7: 12)

It doesn’t matter how hard I look at that cluster of stars, I will not be able to take in their beauty by focusing on them directly. I can only see them by averting my vision enough to allow them to become clear. It’s counter-intuitive isn’t it? What we want to become clear by our focus and attention only becomes clear as we focus our attention away.

I’m learning a lot about perspective and wisdom lately. I’m learning to hold loosely those things that I perceive to be unchangeable. I’m learning that often what appears to be the problem isn’t really the problem at all. Sometimes averting my vision shows me there are things to be seen that aren’t readily apparent. And most of all, I’m learning to divert my attention from the big things of life long enough to see the smaller things that are hidden behind them.

Where might you avert your vision in order to see with God’s perspective? Allow wisdom to have its way this week, will you?


5 Comments on “How averting our vision helps us see what is there

  1. Great thoughts on wisdom and perspective. —On a different note, are you related to Mike and Lisa Bodine?

  2. What great thoughts on wisdom. And sometime stepping away from a situation really does bring it to light. Thanks for sharing your insight.

  3. This- “So wisdom is allowing myself to see from another perspective – allowing myself to be changed rather than assuming that I need wisdom to go and change a situation or person or conversation.” is such a huge thing and takes lots of humility, but in the end we are all better off. Thanks for sharing and reminding me that I can only change myself and that I need to trust God to change others.

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