ISSUES OF FAITH: Use averted vision to see what’s unseen

ON A WARM summer night, I sometimes enjoy lying on back on my freshly mowed lawn and gazing into the stars.

There aren’t many street lights in Joyce to interfere, only clouds.

On a clear, dark night, it’s a spectacular thing to do.

I stare into a vast universe, and I feel appropriately small.

And every time I stare into the stars, I enjoy the phenomenon of “averted vision.”

Corner of the eye

If I stare directly at a bright star, I will notice in my peripheral vision some other stars, but if I look directly at them, they immediately disappear.

A little research taught me that the most sensitive part of the retina in our eye isn’t the middle; it’s off to one side.

This means that not looking directly at something, but just a little bit to the side, allows the light of a star, or some other object, to hit the fovea of the eye enabling it to see fainter objects.

If you want a more scientific explanation, you’ll have to look it up.

I prefer to think of it as stars playing hide-n-seek.

So, I wonder: Maybe we should use our averted vision more often in life and not just at night?

Maybe we get so focused on the glaringly obvious that we ignore the blinking peripheral — a critical or beautiful peripheral.

Maybe we dare to divert our vision for a second, but the object disappears, so we return to the comfort of the obvious.

There are many things in this world that vie for our attention and we are easily captivated.

But maybe we need to engage our averted vision to see some important things, even eternal things.

Different viewpoint

The Bible encourages us to “not lose heart.”

Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day.

For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.

“For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18 ESV).

The unseen world is no less true than the unseen stars.

Both deserve our attention.

It’s true that “the Heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (Psalms 19:1), but try averting your vision just a little bit sometimes to be able to fully see God’s full proclamation.

Think of averted vision as a way of focusing on God’s visual whisper.


Issues of Faith is a rotating column by five religious leaders on the North Olympic Peninsula. The Rev. Greg Reynolds is pastor of Joyce Bible Church. His email is [email protected]

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