Today I am honored to feature a guest post by a very special woman, Elise Finch, whose insights are evident in this first of a two part reflective post series.
Learning to see. It’s funny how even an incomplete sentence can draw our attention to a concept. An opening statement that breaks the rules of grammar can cause us to stumble and re-read. Why this is, is not complicated. Our brains instinctively look for what’s missing. An opening statement requires a subject at the very least and certainly a verb! We’re slightly aghast and certainly caught off our guard!
As a homeschool mother of 4, I’ve drilled my kids for years on basic grammar rules and sentence structure. Good writing, while creative, must submit itself to certain forms, rules of the game. For instance the Shurley English grammar programs teach that a sentence follows five simple rules:
- It has a subject
- It has a verb
- It makes complete sense
- It has a capital letter
- It has an end mark
These are taught, drilled by jingle, demonstrated, and the student’s mastery of them evaluated time and time again. So if a child of mine, all of them taught initially through this program, wrote ‘learning to see’ as a topic sentence or a thesis statement, I would be asking them to go back and add what’s missing. Would they automatically know? Well, yes, mine would and if you are a parent, yours likely would too, if the ages of your kids placed them above the third grade.
We can easily observe ‘that’ our kids know what makes a complete sentence, while this blog writer did not, but I think the more remarkable question to consider is how they arrived at that place of knowing.
Really seeing, truly noticing is both a “learned through instruction” and a “learned through experience behavior.”
Our children didn’t come from the womb knowing. Neither did we. As a matter of fact, none of us came from the womb knowing or even understanding how to see. Do any of us recall those early days of black and white vision, an absence of all depth perception, just how long it actually took us to understand the faces and objects around us?
According to the American Optometric Association, “Babies learn to see over a period of time, much like they learn to walk and talk. They are not born with all the visual abilities they need in life. The ability to focus and understand visual information must be learned. At birth, babies’ primary focus is on objects 8 to 10 inches from their faces. For the first two months of life they have little depth perception and it is not until the fifth month that the eyes are capable of working together to form a three-dimensional view of the world.”
Additionally, Bausch and Lomb instructs that while each eye has the physical structure it needs to begin to see normally, the eyes don’t initially work together at birth. Neither are we born with the ability to recognize color. “Babies see the color red first and see the full spectrum of colors by the time they reach three months of age.” We don’t “see” the full spectrum of colors until approximately three months of age!
While none of us can remember quite that far back in our own development, these statements concerning an infant’s eye development make sense to us. Why is that? Which of us has not observed an infant discovering his fingers and toes for the first time? How far are they, approximately from the child’s face? 8-10 inches perhaps? Since he or she can’t yet see them clearly, they use their other senses to explore and discover them. They grasp at the air until they find that elusive toe, they seek to touch their fingers and have that ‘swing-and-a-miss.’ When they finally find their chubby digits, what do they do next? Into the mouth they go. And why is this? Because babies orally discover, before they visually or even tactilely discover. They reach for your face, while they are cradled, as they are seeking to make sense of it.
Babies learn through and learn to see through instruction. They learn to see through experience.
A good friend of mine, Kathy, is a brilliant botanical artist. She and I met through a Bible study leader’s group at our church and it’s through her work that the concept of “learning to see” first became a fascination of mine. Walking through her home, and ‘seeing’ a tulip tree blossom or the berries of a pokeweed plant was a clinic on seeing. As an artist in training, when she made her first sketches, she began with studying these various plants. She observed, photographed, field sketched, observed during the various seasons, how each part of these plants connected, stem to leaf, leaf to berry, the shapes of those connections, how the plants fluctuated during the seasons. “Did you know,” my friend observed, “that there are ten tiny hairs encircling a central spot at the end of each berry? Each is connected to the berry the same way, and in a cluster of berries, the symmetry is exactly the same in each one?”
To some, this conversation might not seem overly exhilarating. We were, after all, discussing the hairs of a berry on a pokeweed plant. What was mesmerizing, however, was viewing her sketches and appreciating the detail with which she captured this facet of the berry. There is nothing random about the plant. It’s symmetrical. We walk right by it and observe a plant with some pretty berries and yet down to its tiniest feature, it declares divine design. We walk by and notice the contrast of color and not the amazing detail on display. Detail we don’t even recognize unless we are taught how to see. My friend teaches others how to “see.”
We all learn through instruction. We learn through experience.
Our family was walking through a significant trial at the time of this encounter. My husband was struggling through unemployment. It had been 6 months and would be another 4 before we were to have a regular income. A family of 6 in the Washington D.C. area with nearly 10 months and no income was challenging, sometimes frightening. Discouragement abounded; fear rarely abated. But on this day, in my friend Kathy’s home, I learned a lesson about sight. Learning to see became a life preserver on many a day. As I pondered my friend’s example, I began to see my circumstances differently, read God’s word differently, prayed differently. Instead of simply asking God to remove or change my circumstances, which by the way, I certainly DID faithfully pray, I asked him to help us to see his presence within our circumstances, see his provision, grasp the providence behind the problems, the plan behind the pain.
Was all revealed to me during this season? No, certainly not. God’s ways are unsearchable; His hand beyond tracing out. I could, after all, only see 8-10 inches in front of my own face. His hands extended way beyond mine. I saw in black and white. It would be months before I could see color, texture, where circumstances and provision took shape and my eyes could see any form or purpose to them. It wasn’t instantaneous. It wasn’t easy. It required something of me. But He made me, created me with the ability to do the work. His desire was for me to see and His desire is for you to see too.
We all learn through instruction. We learn through experience, but we do so because Someone created us to do so. This ability declares divine design, bringing purpose, shape and even exhilaration to our most perplexing circumstances. God, himself, trains us to see beyond our own chubby grip. He trains us through his Word. He trains us by how he moves us through our circumstances, our experiences.
And He does so because he is the reason we were created to see in the first place and he wants us to.
Check out this pokeweed photo….
Elise, wife, and mother of four is one of the most capable, intelligent, witty, and insightful young women I know. She manages to home school her children in ways that bring out the very best in them and never fail to reflect her perceptive creativity.
She made the choice to leave a professional career when her first child was born to devote herself to training and teaching her children.
Elise has a passion for the Lord that is evident in how she serves others and disciples her children. Her sense of humor has seen her through more than a few tough places and her faith has been tested in multiple ways and in the midst courage has sprouted up through each trial.
There is no one I would rather go shopping with, share a cup of coffee with, or delve into the latest books we have read. What a joy to have her as my daughter!