Remember Magic Eye? Those fuzzy pictures that, if you stared at them long enough, would suddenly form into a razor-sharp 3-D image? I loved those. Actually. I hated them. I’m pretty competitive when it comes to games, and for some reason, my eyes just couldn’t compete with those of, well, let’s say my husband for example. Who is also a little competitive. We’d stand side by side in Walmart staring at those things, our grocery shopping completely forgotten, my adrenaline surging with every passing second as I knew Jeff was getting closer and closer to seeing what my brain could not hurry to sort out.
Jeff: Jet plane! Dragon! Niagara Falls! Porpoise!
Me: Porpoises are stupid. Can we go now?
Apparently, the trick was to keep your focus off of any individual point and gaze at the whole picture. Apparently, I was no good at that.
But I think I’m getting better.
Recently, one of my days took an unexpected turn when I had to take one of the dogs into the vet for a bladder infection. Which is bad on so many levels, but I’ll spare you the journey that brought us to the point of actually seeking medical attention. My bad attitude may or may not have lengthened that journey. I’ll just leave that part out, as well.
So I was sitting there sulking when I got a text from one of two friends who were out to lunch celebrating their birthdays together, presumably not smelling like dog. Here is the exchange that followed:
Friend: Where are you?
Me (initial response): At the vet hemorrhaging money.
Me (edited, actual response): At the vet doing my duty to unconditional love and companionship.
Friend: We’re coming to see you. Don’t leave. You’ll want to see us.
Me (initial response): What beverages came with Birthday Lunch? Are you in a limo wearing sombreros?
Me (edited, actual response): I’m in the exam room. Coming here would be weird. Oh, and Happy Birthday!
Friend: Too bad, we’ll be there in 5. It’s going to feel like YOUR birthday!
Sure enough, five minutes later two pretty heads with enormous grins popped around the door of the exam room where I was sitting covered in dog fur grouchily waiting my turn to get fleeced. And now, apparently, embarrassed, too.
It took me a minute to register that no one was wearing a sombrero.
And then my sweet friends handed me a gift bag containing perhaps the loveliest green felt winter coat ever constructed, in just my size. They had seen it in a boutique after lunch and had immediately thought of me because it was my favorite color. They wanted to bless me with it. And my birthday wasn’t for five more months.
We’ve established that I shop in places where they sell giant Magic Eye posters, so let’s just say a coat of this quality and style was not in my future. Not even a little bit. And with all the dog shenanigans, I hadn’t quite nailed down birthday gifts for the two actual birthday girls. So I stood there empty-handed and misty-eyed in a place I hadn’t wanted to be trying on a coat that should never have been mine on a day that should not have been special from friends who should never have come and found me at all.
And it took me until five o’clock to see the Magic Eye. (I said I was getting better, but I’m still pretty slow.) Suddenly, in the midst of all the incongruous pieces of my day, there it was: razor sharp and 3-D—the gospel in a green felt coat, the gospel in my clear-eyed, joy-laden, openhanded friends on an interrupted day in an unexpected place. For surely Christ, on a day that shouted His glory, set it aside to come find me in much the same way—me, with my bad attitude and my hands empty of gifts—and gave me a garment I could never afford, dearly purchased, joyfully.
What kindness to have been given friends like mine. What mercy to have been given the friendship of Christ. For certainly the truest friend is the one who lives out the gospel for the sheer joy of it and for the glory of the Father. The gospel imbues the very canvas of the believer’s life on the average day and the exceptional day, but one needs a steady gaze to trace it. God grant us eyes to see.