In 2023, Lord, open the eyes of our hearts

May our hope in Christ make itself visible in the coming year.

The title character of the British comedy-drama Doc Martin is a successful vascular surgeon in London whose career is derailed because he develops hemophobia, an extreme irrational fear of blood. He is forced to take up a humbler vocation as a village General Practitioner in the fictional seaside Cornish village of Portwenn (Port Isaac). 

Until recently, my own bodily anxiety involved my eyes. I could not open my eyes under water, couldn’t imagine wearing contact lenses, and generally preferred a visit to an endodontist for a root canal to having an ophthalmologist put stinging drops into my eyes and blow air at them. 

All that changed after going through two uneventful and successful cataract surgeries. However, the best was still to come. A post-op examination of my right eye revealed a retinal hole that, if left unattended, would grow and eventually deprive me of sight in one eye. I needed retinal surgery – yes, the kind that involves a gas bubble in the eye cavity and requires one to live face-down for a week, 24 hours a day.

What was amazing about the surgery is that I actually saw it happening. I was kept sedated but awake and watched the tiny scalpel enter my eyeball and make the needed repairs. I was also, it is wonderful to tell, calm and able to begin reflecting on what I was experiencing. 

The eye that can see itself seeing

This remarkable self-referential experience led me to Ephesians 1:18, where the Apostle Paul writes this prayer for the church: “I pray that eyes of your heart may be enlightened.” Paul desires that, their eyes opened by the Holy Spirit, his audience might see clearly the hope that is in Christ. Opening the eyes of our heart is also an apt metaphor for Christian self-examination. Illumined by the Holy Spirit, we are called to daily spiritual scrutiny of our hearts and lives, a scrutiny heightened at important moments such as before participating in Holy Communion or at the conclusion of one year and the beginning of another. As we leave the Year of our Lord 2022 behind and enter 2023, asking the Holy Spirit to open the eyes of our heart strikes me as more important and valuable than making a New Year’s resolution to exercise more often (not that there’s anything wrong with that!). Open the eyes of our hearts, Lord, so that our hope in Christ makes itself visible again.


  • John Bolt

    John is the Jean and Kenneth Baker Professor of Systematic Theology, Emeritus, of Calvin Theological Seminary.

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