“Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.”
― Brené Brown
Recently, when reading the book of Genesis again, I highlighted the words “saw” and “good” and was struck by the pattern. Each time that God created something new, He stepped back and saw that it was good. He took the time to step back, really look at what He created, and see its value.
The idea of being seen, truly seen, is something I have been thinking about a lot in 2020. Two things brought me to these thoughts. First, I was forced to look back at my adolescence and examine the path that took me to where I am today. Second, the pandemic created a perfect storm of isolation. It’s easy for me to withdraw which I know can be problematic. At first, I made sure to reach out to people a lot, using that extra boost that comes from a stress response. But as time went on, that energy wore out and I have found myself slowly isolating again. And I believe that we are created for connection, to live like God the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, in community.
Brene Brown’s research on wholehearted living, shame and vulnerability took the world by storm after her viral TED talk. I have read all of her books and gained a lot from them. And In her book “The Gifts of Imperfection,” she defined connection as follows:
“I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.” Brené Brown
This definition of connection resonates deeply with me. Unfortunately, it’s often easier to know things are true than to put them into practice. And this is the case with me and connection. I think this is partly because of our world’s tendency to tell people to Put on a Happy Face. That happy face gets in the way of connection.
In 1 Samuel 16:7, the Lord said to Samuel, “The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” All that happy face does is cover up a sad heart and make it harder to be seen. There are some people who seem to have a way to see through that happy face, into the heart. God has gifted them in ways that we need to celebrate more and need to learn from. Jesus did this and throughout the New Testament, we are given glimpses of it through His interactions with others.
- In John 11, Jesus received word that Lazarus was sick but arrived after his death. He spoke with Martha upon his arrival and then asked her to get Mary. In verse 33, it says “When Jesus saw her [Mary] weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.” I always found interesting that Jesus responded to these two sisters so differently, truly seeing each one for who she was and adjusting his response accordingly.
- In Luke 10, Jesus met a Samaritan woman at the well, a woman who lived in shame gathering water at the hottest time of the day. His wisdom in approaching her in the story amazes me. He connects with her by first asking her to serve him. And then, once she has been put in a posture of service, he sees her and tells her who she is. It may not have been easy to hear it all, but it clearly was miraculous to this woman.
- In Mark 5, a woman who had an issue of blood touched Jesus’ robe. And when he felt it, he looked for her and saw her. And he told her that her faith had healed her, to go in peace and stop suffering.
As followers of Jesus, we should live like he did, striving for true and genuine connection. His care and ability to get behind the “happy face” is remarkable and something I strive for. It’s also something that I’ve appreciated in others in my life. Those who truly see, behind the flashy façade are a treasure. I recently came across the following quote and it’s been rolling around in my mind ever since. It’s about photography but also about so much more. It describes the power of being seen and valued by someone who loves, just like Jesus did.
And I also can’t help but think of the last part of the definition and in God’s days described in Genesis. He said that it was good. It had value. We have value because we’ve been made in God’s image. Each and every one of us. All too often, we forget that. So today, remember that you have value, that your neighbor has value, that the criminal has value, that the one who can’t speak has value, that the one with schizophrenia has value. And let’s try to see that value in each other today.