The (Ultimate) Giver
“Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” Romans 8:24-25
There is a book written by Lois Lowry entitled The Giver whose scripted “truths” often come to mind when I’m reading certain Biblical truths. It has an interesting story line and if you like a plot that is layered with inference and symbolism, then you are likely to enjoy this book. The setting of the story is a utopian society in a futuristic world. Within these “perfect” communities, efficiency is valued over emotions and the uncertainties that erupt from personal choice are replaced with the assurances that emanate from prescribed control. Every part of life is calculated, contrived, and contained. There are no surprises. There is no supposing. Everything is mapped out and the course is navigated accordingly. No mistakes, no mishaps, no mayhem; only perfect peace in a perfect society. But, since control is sometimes hard to…well…control, there is a trap door just in case. Just in case there is a surprise, just in case something doesn’t go according to Plan A, there is a Plan B…or, more accurately, a Plan G. Enter the Giver.
In this perfectly programmed community, the Giver is the one person who still has knowledge of the world as it used to be; he alone holds the memories of ages past so that history may stay historical and never again repeat itself. He is known as the Giver because not only has he been given all the memories of the past, but in turn he will give these recollections to another; he, the Giver, will pour all he knows into the mind of a chosen Receiver who will eventually become the next Giver…and so on. My point in all of this is to present the context from which one element in the story will be extracted: the element of “seeing beyond”. In this fictional story, a person can only become the Receiver if certain capabilities are evident. One of these is the ability to “see beyond”. In a world where people have been told what to see and how to see it, blindness has shrouded the eyes of those who have ceased to look…ceased to observe…ceased to perceive. But, if in the midst of this greyness, one dares to see color…one dares to “see beyond”…to him is given all the shades that others can’t see and all the sights that others won’t know. It’s a rare gift in this futuristic utopian society and it’s a rare gift in our current very unutopian world. But, I believe it’s a gift we can actually receive because I think it’s a gift God wants us to have, I just think He calls it by a different name. In God’s vocabulary bank, I believe the term for the ability to “see beyond” is hope.
In Ephesians 1:18, Paul prays that God will open the eyes of believers’ hearts that they may “see the hope of His calling,” and in 2 Cor. 4:18 he reminds us to “fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” This ability to have hope is nothing more than God granting us the capacity to “see beyond”. Because of hope, we can see beyond our current circumstance, around our present obstacle, and through our temporary darkness. With hope, we learn to see not with our eyes but with our hearts; in hope we are forced to walk by faith and not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7) and in that place…in that place where eyes fail but vision flourishes…we look to the One who sees us and guides us with His eye.
Have you ever seen someone looking intently at something and, out of curiosity, your eyes follow their gaze as you try to see what they see? That’s what I picture when I read Psalm 32:8, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you shall go: I will guide you with my eye.” I imagine myself looking up to God and then following the direction of His gaze and, though I can’t see what He sees, I find comfort in knowing that He is looking at something! His eyes aren’t closed…they’re looking ahead, they’re looking out, they’re seeing beyond…they’re providing hope
C. S. Lewis wrote about hope. Here is how he described man’s desire to “see beyond”:
“Most people, if they had really learned to look into their own hearts, would know that they do want, and want acutely, something that cannot be had in this world. There are all sorts of things in this world that offer to give it to you, but they never quite keep their promise.”
“We do not want to merely “see” beauty–though, God knows, even that is bounty enough. We want something else which can hardly be put into words–to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it.”
C. S. Lewis knew we all have this longing, this hope untapped and perhaps unlabeled. It’s how God wired us so that, until we see Him face to face, we are ever wanting to see beyond this temporary world and into our eternal home. It’s where our faith is grown; “faith [which] is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Heb. 11:1). And, until our vision is complete and our faith becomes sight, what are we to do? Where are we to look? To El Roi, the God-Who-Sees. In Genesis 16:13, Hagar’s plight is recorded. When she was unable to see beyond her circumstances, she cried out and God showed up to guide her with His eye. He spoke words that enabled her to see beyond her present situation; He gave her hope. This is the first place in Scripture where God is referred to as El Roi, which means “The God Who Sees”. In some places, this name is expanded to “The God Who Sees…me.” I like them both; I need the God who looks outward and sees everything…and I need the God who looks downward and sees me. When my path is too curved to “see beyond” the next bend, I can fix my eyes (and my hope) upon the One who sees everything. When I feel invisible and shrouded in uncertainty, I can find comfort in knowing that El Roi always has His eyes upon me. Is there a greater source of hope? Is there a better way to “see beyond”?
Lois Lowry wrote about the ability to “see beyond” in The Giver but it pales in comparison to what God wrote about hope in the Old and New Testament. Surely we have been given the capacity to see beyond our present life and into the life that is yet to come; the real life…the one that holds colors we have never seen but longingly imagine. It’s the hope of all saints; it’s the hope of salvation; it’s the hope that sees…“as yet through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then I shall know even as also I am know.” (I Cor. 13:12). For then, I shall finally “see beyond ”.