I attended an indoor carnival at my kids’ school this past spring. Giving in to my 6-year-old son’s relentless urging, I accompanied him to the room where they held the obligatory “cake walk.” What’s a carnival without a cake walk, right? As I helped my son select a spot in the circle to begin walking, I couldn’t help but notice the two very long tables, one on either side of the small room, overflowing with every possible version of a dessert. There were pies, cakes, cupcakes, cookies, muffins, and cinnamon rolls with various combinations of frostings and toppings. No matter where I looked, my eyes locked onto the sweet goodness. The room filled with people and the game began; I was trapped in a sugar vault!
Hello, my name is Heather, and I am a recovering sugar addict. People closest to me know how much I have loved chocolate over the years…Yes, I’ll take the chocolate brownie with the chocolate ice cream and can we put some hot fudge on top? What about chocolate shavings too? For many years, I struggled to tame the sugar beast. However, more recently I had enjoyed riding a wave of success, celebrating the fact that I hadn’t craved sugar in months.
Then I found myself in a room filled with temptation that was encircling me and closing in fast. I chuckled at the irony, yet felt emotional pangs as I saw some old, familiar friends on those tables. I tried not to make eye contact (with the cakes) but it was nearly impossible. Eyes forward, girl. You can do this. I secretly prayed that my son would win nothing, and as luck would have it, he didn’t win. However, the loss prompted multiple visits back to that room over the course of the evening as my son desperately tried to win a sweet treasure. Each time I set foot in that place, I was confronted with the delectable desserts, and mystified that the cake supply didn’t seem to be dwindling! Each time we left, I was secretly relieved that my son hadn’t won.
We weren’t home very long when I started craving something sweet for the first time in months. I began systematically tearing my pantry apart in search for something, anything sweet. Where is this coming from? I’m behaving like an animal! I was naïve for only a moment, before realizing that I was responding to what my eyes had repeatedly seen just hours before. Even though my body hadn’t ingested any sugar at all—and hadn’t for months—the simple viewing of desserts had the ability to produce these cravings. Our eyes are very powerful!
My cake walk experience is a great illustration of how what we see can influence our thoughts, motives, and behaviors. I’m reminded of what Jesus said in the book of Matthew (6:22): The eye is the lamp of the body. In Bible times, it was understood that the eye was similar to the heart. The eyes (heart) serve as a lamp, illuminating where the body will go, and determining what its priorities will be. In Psalm 119, phrases such as fix my eyes (v. 15), open my eyes (v. 18), and turn my eyes from looking at worthless things (v. 37) reinforce the idea that the eyes are an influential avenue to our hearts and minds.
What are your eyes spending time with today? Are they taking in things that are life-giving or life-squelching? Sometimes it’s obvious how our eyes affect our thoughts. We see sugar, and then we crave it. Other things are more subtle: I see everyone else’s “perfect” lives, bodies, jobs, families, (fill in the blank), and then I make negative value statements about myself as a woman, professional, or mom. Whether obvious or subtle, what we focus on causes a cascade of thoughts, behaviors, and motivations. This produces life-squelching results.
The encouraging news is that this natural progression can work in the opposite direction. Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
The next time you find yourself in a “cake walk” situation—whether obvious or subtle—just remember to shift your gaze. Be intentional about focusing our eyes (and heart) on things that produce life-giving results.