Instagram, Tik Tok, YouTube, Facebook. We live in a day and age with a million opportunities to look at other people.
So why is it we can’t see each other?
Several years ago, I was out to breakfast with my mom who was in from out of town.
We’d been seated for a good bit and I was starting to feel frustrated with the slow service. Finally our waitress came over to our table and asked, “Coffee?” There was an impatient tone to her voice, even though the restaurant was nowhere near busy.
“Yes, half-caff for me,” I replied.
Her face grew sour, like I’d just added an hour’s worth of work to her day. When she walked away, I leaned toward my mom and whispered, “Well, she’s a grump.”
A few days later I was back at the same restaurant, this time with my daughter. While we perused our menus, I heard a phone ring and looked up in time to see the same waitress reach in her pocket and pull out her phone. “Hello?”
Wow. Grumpy and she takes personal calls while she’s working? I thought.
By God’s grace, she was nearby enough that I could overhear part of the conversation, and what I heard changed me. Her son had been wounded in Afghanistan a few days earlier, and she still wasn’t getting the full story. She tried but couldn’t hold back her tears.
Suddenly, she wasn’t Ms. Grumpy to me. She was a mom. And she was worried sick about her boy.
Why is it that spaces like YouTube, Instagram, Tik Tok, and Facebook thrive? I wonder if part of their popularity is how hungry people are to be seen. We may amass a few views or thousands, but we remain starved to truly be seen.
There’s an interview Diane Sawyer did with a porn star named Michelle about a decade or more ago. In it, Sawyer observes how Michelle is always smiling even when she’s describing really horrible things she’s experienced. So she asks Michelle about this. “Even when you’re describing really painful things that have happened to you, you’re always smiling.”
For the first time in the interview, Michelle seems to not know what to say. At first, she tries to dodge the question, but with the skill of a good interviewer, Sawyer gently presses. A few moments later, Michelle is crying, confessing that she’s not happy, and in fact, that she doesn’t like herself at all.
How did this smiling, self-assured, happy-go-lucky woman who isn’t afraid to take her clothes off in front of the world shift so quickly to a tearful young girl filled with self-loathing?
I think it was because for the first time in a long time—maybe the first time ever—someone saw her.
At least for a moment.
But the sad thing was, ultimately Sawyer’s question was asked for a TV interview and not necessarily for the rescue of Michelle’s heart.
Friends, Jesus sees. He always sees. He is not looking to criticize or critique like I was at the breakfast place. He is not looking to evaluate our bodies, nor to lust or loathe us based on our sex-appeal. And He is not looking to get a story and increase His ratings.
He is looking in order to see you and me.
Whatever happened to our eyes when Adam and Eve’s “eyes were opened” (Gen. 3:7), it wasn’t an increased ability to truly see other people. Something broke in that moment and I think it’s blurred our vision ever since.
And so we live in a world full of people hungry to be seen, grasping, dancing, running, hoping to truly. be. seen.
Jesus, we’re too accustomed to viewing people for what they can or can’t do for us, even as we ourselves long to be truly seen, known, and loved. Would you help us to sit in front of your loving gaze and allow you to look upon us. Would you teach us to gaze back at you until our eyes burn with liquid fire love like Yours do. Lord, we want to see.
Question: Do you have a story of a time you failed to see a person and missed an opportunity to love? Or do you have a story when somehow God opened your eyes to see, and it made all the difference? Leave a comment below.
Wanting to see,
Want to hear more this week? Check out the latest Becoming Whole podcast; I Can’t Yet See