I color yellow on the tulip edges so they’ll gleam under the black watercolor as though lit from behind, like my friend Wendy’s fat lambs in the late sun, glowing with halos through their fleeces.
I feel joyfully alive as I color, though my hands cramp and I must rest them frequently. Even the pain reminds me of the splendor of this mortality, that God made nerves to signal pain and pleasure, hot and cold, rough and smooth.
I brush waxy crumbs away and listen to birdsong. As a child I loved the songs of the Bible–the Psalms. Their truth and hope cut through all my pretend–joy, anguish, outcry, acquiescence, and rest–He is God of the real.
A favorite line became a life raft during the worst of the teen years–“Keep me as the apple of Your eye.” (Psalm 17:8)
I didn’t understand the imagery then. But despite feeling worthless and hated by others, I felt special to God–the apple of His eye. I saw myself as a literal polished apple–beautifully mottled, shiny, pleasing to hold.
Only later did I read the little footnote that said “apple” meant “pupil.”
The pupil is a hole into the eye.The iris surrounding it is triggered by light striking the optic nerve, and expands or contracts to regulate light as needed.
So if we ask God to keep us as the pupil of His eye, we ask Him to guard our spirits, to regulate His holy light of love and truth that we might always be able to see His path, whether in brightness or darkness. This is an amazing prayer.
The iris widens in darkness, to gather light into the pupil for illumination. Lord, when my soul is dark, open the iris of my heart to gather in Your light. You know how much I need it.
I need Your light when pickle juice spills on clean dishes, when I lock keys, towels, life jackets, and picnic in the car just as we arrive at the lake. I need it for my sore foot at day’s end when the little one wants me to stand and hold her for Rock-A-Bye-Baby.
I need it when I throw out burned eggs because there were FIVE emergencies while I tried to cook them, and everyone is crying because they’re hungry. I need it when the little ones I love wear body braces and face serious surgeries.
I paint black watercolor on my tulips and the waxy color springs to life in relief.
In addition to gathering light, the iris also limits light to protect the pupil. But some protection is up to us. If we look directly at the sun, its brightness can burn the rods and cones at the back of the eye to destroy our vision forever.
Some people wish for more light, for the light of all knowledge, like Adam and Eve. They want foreknowledge of their futures–poverty, riches, and the day of their deaths. But I don’t want to know. I don’t trust myself with that much light.
I fear I’d turn every thought inward towards how to serve and preserve myself, how to keep instead of how to lay down my life, and thereby miss the joy and pain and real of the present. I want to live all the way here.
The sun shifts. I hang my painted tulips on the tree branch above the kitchen table with frogs, butterflies, burlap, and grosgrain ribbon. The kitchen lies in shadow. I marvel how my eyes adjust. The light has fallen to the other side of the house–perfect time to clean the kitchen window.
Father, clean the glass of my heart. Help me see clearly. Keep me as the apple of Your eye. Hide me in the shadow of Your wings.