8:18 explained

What’s the deal with the digits?

Today is the perfect day to review the reason behind the numeric name of this column. 8:18 -- a date, a verse and a practice of devotional living.

The inspiration for all of this is Mark 8:18, where Jesus asks his disciples, “Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don’t you remember?”

The call to use our God-given eyes and ears runs throughout Scripture. Solomon, as he often does, puts it succinctly:

The hearing ear and the seeing eye,
          the LORD has made them both. (Proverbs 20:12)

This concept was foundational to Jesus’s use of parables (Matt. 13:13), making it clear that there is a spiritual dimension to seeing and hearing. Like in those parables, spiritual truth lies beneath the face value of what we experience in the world around us.

In Mark 8:18, Jesus also adds the extra element of remembering.

These three abilities are catalysts that can transform our daily experience of God.

See

It’s easy to recognize the grandeur of God in a brilliant sunrise. It’s much trickier to see him in the mundane. And let’s face it: life is full of mundane moments.

I’ll be honest. These posts would be far harder to write if I didn’t travel to interesting places. So, I’m cheating. I admit it. But that doesn’t let me off the hook. For, much of my “glamorous” travel is waiting in airports and sitting in the back of Lyft rides. Can I see God’s design and purpose behind the functional parts of the world I pass through?

And more to the point, can I see people in a different light? Paul tells us to “regard no one from a worldly point of view.” (2 Cor. 5:16) I constantly fall prey to this, judging people by external indicators – their demeanor, their appearance, their job, their degree of success. (And this is just while passing through a plane’s first-class section!)

I constantly remind myself to look behind the curtain of what I see with expectancy. God is at work behind the curtain.

Hear

Last week, my grandson and I lay down on our backs in his backyard playhouse and just listened. To the birds. To distant trucks. To the loud cicadas on branches above us. It made me realize how little we stop and sample the auditory buffet that is served to us all day long.

Another admission: I don’t do this justice in these posts. There have been a few times when I wish I could share with you a sound – the laughing of a loon over a darkening lake comes to mind – but didn’t know how.

But the same need holds here as it did with seeing. There is a spiritual dimension in what we hear – particularly in the conversations we have – that can link back to Jesus. Everything has a connection to him. “For from him and through him and to him are all things.” (Romans 11:36)

Remember

Jesus added this ingredient of memory because, frankly, awareness only in the moment changes nothing. His disciples had seen the miraculous feeding of thousands with a few loaves and fish, and yet, hours later, they were worried that he would be angry that they forgot to bring food on the boat. Where was the lesson learned?

When our eyes and ears are open to notice the presence of God in the world around us, we need to have it imprint our minds in order to impact our lives.

I will remember the deeds of the LORD;
       yes, I will remember your wonders of old. (Psalm 77:11)

That’s where Scripture enters. Connecting what we see and hear to the Word of God is the recipe for turning transient experiences into lasting, habit-forming memories. I try to make that connection in these posts, because simple musing is not enough.

And it’s why I always end with a prayer. The more we notice God in the world around us, the greater our longing – to worship him, and for his help in responding to what we’re learning.

I hope that all makes sense, and clears up the enigma of the numbers.

And if you forget, don’t worry. There’s another 8/18 a year from now.

God, open our eyes, our ears and our minds to your presence. In the miraculous moments. As well as in the mundane. We want to be transformed by what we see, hear and remember. Use everything to make us more like Jesus.

Readers: How has this column encouraged you to see or hear or remember in a different way? I’d love to hear about it. (Would be a nice way to celebrate my birthday!)

Email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. And if you liked this, please use the buttons above to share it.

Bruce Van Patter

As a freelance illustrator, graphic recorder, and author, Bruce is on a lifelong journey to delight in the handiwork of the Creator. And he’s always ready for fellow travelers.

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