Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

The Great Optometrist

Written by: on September 11, 2014

I ordered new glasses. It’s not really news worthy, as the lens prescription hasn’t changed and the new frames will likely have little difference from the old ones. By my calculations, this is the fifteenth time that I’ve ordered a new pair of glasses. I’ve averaged a new pair every two years for the last thirty years. I’ve appreciated the fact that I can see near, far and with detail during the course of these years. There is rarely a time when I’m not wearing my glasses. Yet, there is always a reminder, in those moments when I slip them off to clean them, or to rub my eyes or when I lay them at my bedside at the end of a day, that apart from the lenses of my glasses, I really lack the capacity to see, I lack vision, I lack clarity.


David Morgan, in his book The Sacred Gaze: Religious Visual Culture in Theory and Practice, attempts to help us gain clarity, as he traces through the significance of visual representations across many faith practices. While the ideal of trying to equate relevance to Hindu representation, Buddhists idols and Christian art and artifacts, (among others) is noble, there seemed to be something missing from his presentation.

(Now, I must confess that I likely have a bias, having grown up in a Hindu home and having participated in several religious observances, including Islam and Sikhism)

Morgan’s own definition of religion is helpful in understanding his premise:

“By religion, I understand configurations of social relatedness and cultural ordering that appeal to powers that assist humans in organizing their collective and individual lives. These “powers” may be supernatural or entirely circumscribed within the domain of natural phenomena. In either case, religion is a way of controlling events or experience for the purpose of living better, longer, more meaningfully, or with less hazard.” (p. 52)

 Establishing his view of religion is important to appreciating the consistency of how Morgan goes on to address the role of artistic representations across the lines of many faiths. He makes a clarifying statement regarding this position: “Images make the god or saint or spirit available for petition, praise, offering, and negotiation.” (p.59) Though consistent throughout the book, this premise appears to miss the mark as it relates to understanding faith from the perspective God gives to us, in the Bible.

A religious perspective can rightly determine that art attempts to define, direct and even determine what the worshiper should think or feel. The representations, as Morgan notes in the quote above, are like messages from the one being worshipped to the worshipper. It would be like optometrist just handing you a pair of glasses without determining what prescription you need. Your capacity to see would likely change, but it wouldn’t necessarily be for the better. In fact you may feel disoriented as a result.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus points his listeners (Matthew 6:25-34) to “look” and “see” through nature so that they may consider the sovereign, timely and provisional care of Our Heavenly Father. Jesus, the Great Optometrist, invites us to consider who God is, via the eyes of our spiritual minds, through the natural art that abundantly surrounds. The birds, the flowers they point out toward God. It is as though; through our living faith (not static religion) Jesus fits us with the lens we need to see him clearly. The solution isn’t merely having glasses. The solution is in learning how to see through a new pair of lenses.


 Religion is like owning a pair of frames or simply some fashion frames. Morgan refers to this using the term “textuality”:

 “In print culture, images may act like texts or referents, that is, as signifiers of something else…Images appear most often anchored to texts, which use pictures or diagrams as forms of reference to themselves. A caption frames how one should “read” an image, foreclosing certain possibilities and narrowing interpretation as much as possible.” (p. 90)

Our faith in Jesus Christ, should not be like just owning frames. It should be more like looking through a perfectly prescribed pair of lenses. I remember the day I received my first pair of glasses. At first I was reluctant to put them on, but when finally I did, it was a spectacular and overwhelming feeling! My mind suddenly was pressed into processing more detail than it had previously been taking in through my eyes! Suddenly the teachers were writing with darker chalk; the trees had leaves, the city buses had numbers and the streets had names. So much had changed, not because I owned frames, but because I started looking at the world through a perfectly prescribed new pair of lenses.

I remember the day when I made my decision to follow Jesus Christ as my Saviour. After months of reluctance, when I finally immersed myself, in faith in Christ, it was a spectacular and overwhelming feeling! The world, its symbols, icons and representations no longer had static meaning. Instead there was (and still is) so much to discover, across all facets of life, that point out toward the greatness of God. My new faith lenses, perfectly prescribed by the Great Optometrist, has changed the way I view the world. Just like my regular visits to the optometrist down the street, regular evaluations help to ensure that I am suited with the right lenses to have the best opportunities to discover more about Our God.

About the Author

Deve Persad

15 responses to “The Great Optometrist”

  1. Great post Deve! Love your narrative writing style. My wife recalls her incredible dramatic salvation experience in much the same way that you described getting your first pair of glasses. She tells of how everything around her was now “in focus.” For the first time in her life she “saw” as never before. She experienced the joy of noticing leaves on trees, blades of grass, children playing, and the whole sky being brighter. She received a whole new prescription as her soul was transformed and made alive to the living God. Truly I cannot think of a more evident expression of God’s power than that of a transformed person rejoicing and exclaiming, “I once was blind, but now I see.” Bless you Brother. See you in Cape Town God willing!

    • Deve Persad says:

      Thanks Mitch! I understand that not every “conversion” affords the significant differences that your wife or I have been able to appreciate, but I’m thankful for the opportunity to see life through the Spirit of God. That being said, my wife’s testimony is one of committed faithfulness from childhood and with parents who provided a faithful example. Her view of life has greatly enhanced my own. See you soon!

  2. rhbaker275 says:

    I agree with Mitch – great post! I always “see clearer” when I read the applications you make to our reading.

    I am curious if you gleaned from the text or in your own thinking, how do we establish or can we establish or must we establish in an image the three dimensional affirmation we seek in textuality: accuracy, credibility, and authority (89)? Or, must image be anchored to a text, as Morgan seems to note in your quote. Is it possible to have a “perfectly prescribed pair of lenses” without some framework? Morgan “frames” what he wants us to see at this point using the art work, “Two Books” by harry Anderson (91). The two books are the Word and the image of the Lord as seen in nature? Would/could the young lady in the picture see clearly the image of the Lord in nature without the open Word? Romans 1:20ff says, “Since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities … have been clearly seen …. [they] exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.”

    I was drawn right away to your post as just yesterday I ordered new glasses – fames and lenses; the first in eight years. I don’t like glasses; they don’t work like my contacts. What will be interesting is I ordered mono-vision glasses. I love my contacts and hardly ever wear glasses; I think I need a backup before going to Capetown. I have mono-vision contacts; the left contact corrects my close vision and the right contact corrects distance. With my contacts in (both) I have 20/20 vision. I want to see if I can have 20/20 with mono glasses; they tell me it won’t work. My optometrist tells me that in her seventeen years she has never had a single client that was able to adapt. The brain, she says, cannot get the dual images framed right. We’ll see!

    • Deve Persad says:

      Ron, without a doubt, there is substantive power when the Word of God provides the “textual anchor” with the creative order, that Morgan speaks about. But it’s all the more astounding to realize that apart from words, creation bears witness to His glory, just as the verse you quote indicates.

  3. Liz Linssen says:

    Dear Deve
    Really appreciate your imagery. Great as always!
    I like where you wrote how these representations are meant to be messages from “the one being worshipped to the worshipper.” It made me think about the various names of God in the Bible. There are many and each one is like a ‘message’ from God, each revealing a new aspect about God’s nature and character. Each one meant to inspire and fuel our faith, worship and understanding of God. They are just titles at the end of the day, but they enable us to ‘imagine’ what God is like in our hearts and minds.
    Referring to your glasses analogy, would you say that some forms of art enable you to ‘see’ God better?

    • Deve Persad says:

      Great question Liz, I’m sure it’s possible that art could provide a lens, through which to better appreciate God. However, my personal lack of artistic understanding probably limits that appreciation. I keep trying though…

  4. Richard Volzke says:

    I liked your analogy for getting new eyeglasses and how this is like to God giving us sight through His word. God has given man many ways to see Him. Art is just one of these ways. While much of “Christian art” (paintings, symbols, etc…) does nothing for me, I do enjoy looking at it.

  5. Deve,

    Your posts are always like a cup of coffee and a piece of fine chocolate at the end of a long day. They are welcome, warm, and sweet. I might even say that they are the dessert.

    This was a beautiful post, not only because of your wonderfully appropriate metaphors but also because of your transparency. I was unaware that you were from a Hindu background. This gave me a window into you that I hadn’t seen before. Thank you for that.

    As you know by reading my posts, I have been struggling with and in my faith these past few years. I do not have an emotional relationship with God anymore. In my early Pentecostal days that is all I had. Perhaps I am in rebellion, or perhaps I am just against manipulation and insincerity and phoniness. Whatever the case may be, that is where I am. My faith is there; it’s just not as alive as it used to be. I do not have many answers, but I do have tons of questions. Why am I telling you all of this? The reason is that when I read your posts and experience your obviously real relationship with Jesus, I become hopeful that I may some day have that too. Your humility (and good writing) touches my soul. Not a lot does that these days. So thank you again, my friend, for being an instrument of God’s living grace to me.

    • Deve Persad says:

      Thanks once again for your kind words Professor. You have a great gift of encouragement that can only come from Our God. As I pray, often I pray for you and the road you’ve journeyed since the time we last met. Let’s lean on Him together!

  6. Clint Baldwin says:

    Great post. Appreciate your conversation surrounding frames and lenses. Of course, so much here. One thing I was thinking about in considering global leadership is the multiplicity of frames that are available. And the idea that the Gospel must always be renewed in each culture in each generation if it is to have authentic meaning. So, this analogy breaks down at some point (and a ton of variation to offer), but I think it works fairly enough to say that we vary our frames depending on surrounding circumstance, but our lens prescription stays the same. Jesus is the focus through which we engage each culture in all their fabulous varieties (our different frames).
    Our prescription changing could suggest how we see Jesus differently at different points in our lives…but that’s a further comment. 🙂

    • Deve Persad says:

      Clint, absolutely, I agree with the concept of different generations seeing different things but all through the lens of Jesus. I’m glad I don’t wear the frames from the 70’s but I appreciate those idea and ideals that have contributed to my current understanding, from those days. The limitations of the analogy are definitely there, but I appreciate you expanding it.

  7. Julie Dodge says:

    As I read your post, Deve, I began to think about mission drift. I’m guessing you know what this is, but I will specify. It is the gradual movement away from the original mission. It starts with subtle alterations – a mental health treatment agency adds a housing program for homeless adults. Now it may be that this new program really is appropriate – perhaps its clients all struggle with mental illness and this new addition adds a much needed element to complement the treatment program. But that may lead to general housing programs and then work programs and… it all may seem like good work, but without regular checking and re-focusing, might lead to a sprawling agency that does a little bit of everything, but perhaps nothing well. There is no focus. It loses its identity. In order to remain strong, it essential to continuously appraise and assess how we follow the mission. I think the same is true with our faith. We can make subtle shifts, which seem perhaps harmless at first, but then one day, suddenly, we realize that we have lost our clarity. We have lumped everything into religion and spirituality and we have lost sight of God. It is essential to return to the Great Optometrist to focus and clarify. I remember also when I got my first pair of glasses. Suddenly I could see! It was amazing. But what also amazed me was because my eyesight had gradually declined, I never realized that my vision was poor (Actually, it was very bad). I had just adjusted and compensated for the subtle losses. It is indeed a great metaphor for our faith and the way that we express, represent, and communicate. Thanks for the picture.

  8. Deve Persad says:

    Thanks for playing along with the analogy Julie. Your application to mission drift is so significant. As a church we have to constantly revisit this issue. As mission organizations we are always being pulled is so many directions. Even as a family, we find ourselves stretching beyond our capacity. All of these call for a refocusing – putting on the lenses – that have been prescribed for us.

  9. Michael Badriaki says:

    Enjoyed your post Deve. I agree with your call to be cautious with Morgan’s take on the universe of icons, images and symbolism. Images may be available but not all visual are beneficial to our spiritual and physical sight. We should always fix our gaze on the author and finisher of our faith- Jesus Christ.

    Thank you!

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