Jesus was born long ago in a stable, in a manger meant for sheep or cattle. If He had been born in modern Alberta, all sorts of unusual animals could have been there. Farming is changing; pastures once containing ordinary cattle or horses are now home to exotic livestock.
One odd-looking barnyard critter is the ostrich, a large, long-necked flightless bird. Ostriches do not appear to be speed demons but these birds have 3.5 meter strides and can run 50 kilometers an hour for 15 minutes or longer. If something is chasing them, ostriches can top 70 km/h. A cornered ostrich is no slouch either. With two clawed toes on each of its long, featherless legs, it can kill or seriously maim animals or people with its powerful kicks.
While strong and speedy, the unfortunate ostrich is not noted for being terribly brilliant. In fact, its eye is bigger than its brain. Maybe that is where we get the derogatory expression “bird brain.” For this bird, seeing comes far easier than thinking.
Rather than be too hard on ostriches, it seems that everyone struggles with a similar problem. We find it much easier to rely on what we can see or experience with our other senses than trust more abstract ideas or concepts. Who has not said, “I will believe it when I see it” and in the realm of faith, who has not wondered about a God they cannot see?
The usual argument about faith vs. sight goes like this: “You cannot see electricity but every time you plug in your coffee maker you are expressing faith in it.” Faith in God is something like that, but anyone who trusts God will be quick to agree that we do not make Him work as simply as plugging in an appliance. God is God, not a servant like a toaster or vacuum cleaner.
Perhaps that is the biggest reason we need to “see” Him through the eyes of faith. No matter the size of our physical eyes or our clarity of vision, we simply cannot take in the wonder of God, of who He is or what He does. Without faith, who can grasp that He created the world and all that is in it? Without faith, who can believe He became a baby and lived among us?
Technology may unwittingly be helping our propensity to demand visual proof. More and more, what we see is not very reliable. Film technology makes animals sing and dance. Magicians make elephants, jumbo jets and huge buildings disappear, at least that is what our eyes tell us. However, faith (in natural laws) says this is not happening; it is just an illusion.
Faith in God does not need to rely on our eyes either, although we can use them to develop it. The Bible says, “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, and through whom He made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being, sustaining all things by His powerful word.” It also says that “faith comes by hearing. . . a message about Christ.”
Through reading God’s record of the above revelations about Himself, faith is nourished in our hearts. In this black and white record of what God has done, we can see what He looks like. We can see how He influenced events and changed lives. By faith, we can believe that God not only exists but that He offers us a personal relationship with Himself. Imagine, knowing God and experiencing an intimate relationship with Him!
However, He does not enter our lives by our senses. We may have better-than-bird brains, quick feet, powerful muscles, twenty-twenty vision — all helpful in life — yet none of these help us see God. We can look in a manger (don’t expect an ostrich) and still not see Him. The key is not that our eyes are wide open but that our hearts are open, that we accept what He says as truth and invite Him to make an impact on our lives. Then He comes into our hearts and minds and even opens our eyes so we have a capacity to know, see and experience Him.