I See You

This past weekend was full of all kinds of meaningful conversation and gatherings. My good friend Steve was with us Saturday night and Sunday morning, and we talked and talked and talked. We had a gathering of almost 20 people in my living room Saturday night, discussing Exodus 3 and the name God gave himself, “I will be what I will be.”  Sunday morning, Steve taught at Imago Dei Church, and then Steve and I had a “pastor-to-pastor” conversation in front of a crowd about tensions in local churches. Anyway, here’s one of the thoughts bouncing around my head after this weekend.

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There’s this story in Genesis 16 about a woman named Hagar. Hagar was a the servant of Sarai and was given by Sarai to her husband Abram because Sarai and Abram couldn’t conceive. (Yes, the ancient world was just a bit different than our own!) But when Hagar “got with” Abram, tension arose between the two women (duh!), and the text tells us that “Sarai mistreated Hagar, so Hagar fled from her.” (Mistreated? Bullied at the minimum, probably closer to “abused” or “beat” her).

The text then tells us that an “angel of the Lord” found Hagar hiding at a spring in the desert and, when the angel spoke to her, the angel informed her that she was pregnant and that her son would be a “wild donkey of a man” (is this supposed to be a compliment?) and he would “live in hostility toward all his brothers” (good luck with THAT!).  Later, in Genesis 21, God assures Abraham (he had a slight name change by this time) that this child of Hagar — Ishmael — would become a great nation.

But here’s the point that Steve got me thinking about this weekend: after the “angel of the Lord” told her she’s preggo, Hagar responded by naming God, calling him “You are the God who sees me.” And as an explanation she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.”

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FullSizeRender-3A year ago, someone gave me a gift of a tiny ceramic bowl, and in the center of
the bowl it says
namaste.

Namaste comes to us from the Hindu tradition and is used both to say “hello” and “goodbye,” just like aloha. Strictly speaking, it means “I see the divine in you,” and it’s intended as a form of respect and honor.

The person who gave me the bowl took the idea a bit further, and she explained to me that when we say namaste to another person, it’s a way of saying “I see you. I honor you.” In a more specifically Christian way, it’s a way of saying, “I see the way you bear the Image of God.”

I don’t say namaste a lot. But when I do, I mean it to say, “I see you.” (And yes, Avatar made this super-cheesy.) But, to be seen, to be noticed, to be missed is a gift we can both give and receive. And when I say it I mean to acknowledge not just that I physically see the person standing in front of me, but rather I intend to say, “to the very best of my ability, I see your suffering, I see your challenges, I see your hurt, your pains and your joys too, and I stand with you in those.” (See, it’s just simpler to say “namaste.”)

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It’s easy to only see myself. To see only my own dramas, to hear the chatter of my own drunken monkeys, to be overwhelmed by my own moods and feelings and season of life. But, one of the ways I’m being called to expand is to be one who see others.

I know from my own experience, when I’m in my seasons of greatest suffering, frustration or despair, I don’t generally want advice, platitudes or even the most well-meaning-but-vague assurances that “it will all work out.” Rather, I simply long to be seen. To have those who know me best, who know the specific ways in which I uniquely suffer to say, “namaste.”

So, today, who are you being invited to see for the first time? Or who do you need to remind that “I see you.” Perhaps it’s your spouse, friend, neighbor or maybe it’s a coworker who you know faces hells at home and yet every day puts on their “game face” and does their job well. Maybe today, just before closing time, you need to acknowledge them — “namaste” — and the battle they are in.

After all, what would the world look like if we were all able to get out of our heads and see each other?

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