Matthew 6:25-26, 32 I tell you not to worry . . . Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? . . . but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs.
I’ve been pondering a phrase written to me by a friend: “Selfishly, I want to be seen.”
The same day, in conversation with another friend who lives alone and is feeling the pressure emotionally of these many weeks of COVID restrictions, we recognized that there is a categorical difference between being alone and having at least one physically present person—even if that person is not easy to live with. It’s more than the need to see other people, as delightful as that is. It’s the need to be seen.
It’s not selfishness. God built into humans the need for other people. To share our joys, troubles and responsibilities. To be touched. To be heard. To be seen. About Adam, before he sinned, when his relationship with God was still intact and perfect, God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18).
My friends’ comments reminded me of a day a few years ago when Dave and I were driving somewhere and started discussing how each of us defined love. I had not thought about it this way before, but what came out of my mouth was, “Love is being seen. I feel loved when someone sees me. My heart. My soul. When someone ‘gets’ who I am.”
And I thought of the breathtakingly lovely story recorded in Genesis 16 about Hagar, a mistreated Egyptian slave who had run away from her masters into the desert. God met her through an angel, who told her, “The Lord has heard your cry of distress.” Amazingly, Hagar was able to receive the message the angel brought her:
Thereafter, Hagar used another name to refer to the Lord, who had spoken to her. She said, “You are El-roi, the God who sees me.” She also said, “Have I truly seen the One who sees me?” So that well was named Beer-lahai-roi (which means “well of the Living One who sees me”). It can still be found between Kadesh and Bered.
One of the things that intrigues me about this story is that the writer of Genesis had to hear it from someone. That means Hagar related it to someone. Who was that someone? We don’t know. But it had to be someone who understood its significance to Hagar. Someone who, along with God, saw her. If Hagar was anything like me, she needed to tell someone her amazing story of encounter with God in order to validate her experience. Otherwise, it would soon become easy to doubt it truly happened. The God of the universe caring enough to find her in the wilderness and talk to her, a slave with no rights, a less-than-nobody?
Each of us, I think, has a deep need to be seen. That implies, I think, other people slowing down enough to both see God, who he is and what he cares about (“Be still and know that I am God!”) and to see each other. I want to be one of those who is both seen and can see.