We don’t see clearly. And yet we are called to see. As we enter lent especially we are called to see ourselves, our own lives and where we need to change. We are called to see the needy and to address those needs. We are called to see where God is in our lives and the world and to highlight those God-moments.
I’ve been thinking a lot about seeing lately, especially as I continue to process the personal events in my life over the last few years and as I reflect on the epiphany star that I picked last year – “foresight”. I used to pride myself on being a person who really looked at others…who really saw others. I was a double major in psychology and cultural anthropology. And I remember a specific class that I took in which the professor ended the semester by saying, “I am an anthropologist and so what I do is study people. That includes the people in this class. So let me tell you what I’ve seen this semester.” She went on to describe relationships formed and ended, but then she ended by saying, “And one unusual thing – I have never before had a student who seemed to be studying her classmates in the same way that I study you.” She pointed me out, as a person who watches, sees, and studies others in the same way. I like people, I am interested in people, and so I try hard to see them – not just for what they look like, act like, or pretend to be; but what really motivates them and who they are at their core. I would look at people in their cars as they drove by, look at people when I preached or taught, look at people in the mall or grocery store, and especially look to see people when they were talking to me about themselves and their lives.
But all of this changed three years ago. When I felt like people were curious about me, when I felt that people were watching me to see how I was responding to my family crisis, I stopped wanting to see others in the same way. I no longer wanted to see the looks on their faces because I was afraid of what I would see – judgment, condemnation, anger, fear. I didn’t want to see it. So I stopped looking. I no longer looked at people in their cars as they drove by, I avoided eye contact with strangers when I went out for a walk, I no longer would linger near people at the mall or grocery store but would rush by, not wanting to be near these strangers any longer than need be. I stopped looking. I stopped seeing.
I had unintentionally missed seeing something major that was going on in my own family, and when catastrophe hit, in part due to that failure on my part to see, I began intentionally to stop seeing. But now that failure to see is starting to impact me in negative ways. I have missed seeing things in the sanctuary, for example, that needed attention. I have missed seeing pain or hurt in others’ faces that needed my attention. When the kids and I were in CA, we were supposed to meet a friend at a restaurant I had never been to before. I drove by the restaurant twice without seeing it. Finally, on the third pass, we were actually stopped at a stop light and I was staring right at the building, saying to the kids, “I can’t see this restaurant” when suddenly the sign came into focus and I realized I was staring right at it without seeing it at all. I no longer see things that I need to see. Once again, fear impacted me in a negative way, this time causing a pattern of non-seeing that is problematic.
How does one learn to see again? Well, I am working on that, both literally and metaphorically. I invite you to do the same. Let us open our eyes to seeing each other - the needs, the gifts, the joys and sorrows. Let us open our eyes to seeing where God is in the world - acting, moving both within people and within all of creation. Let us open our eyes to seeing ourselves: our gifts, our areas of growth, and our calls for how we are to be each day in the world.