The Lord your God is with you,
the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
but will rejoice over you with singing.
“I see you.” This line is a linchpin to the plot line of the movie Avatar. It conveys more than just acknowledgement of image recognition from the ocular receptors. It expresses an awareness of the existence, person-hood, significance of the other. When my dog comes to me with his tail wagging, his nose up and his eyes eagerly seeking mine, I often tell him “I see you.”
A friend of mine was telling me a story of when he worked in a fruit stand. He said that he would often come home depressed and distressed. He finally figured out that he had gone all day and no one had seen him. It sucked the life from his soul.
We all have an innate need for significance. I think that may be one reason why we love our pets so much (I’ll be generous here and include cats for you cat-lovers, but I cannot fathom how a cat makes you feel significant). My dog loves me with an unconditional love, which is odd because my wife is the one who walks him, feeds him, lets him outside. But when I’m home, he wants nothing more than to be in the room where I am. He craves my attention and affection, but is content when my activities don’t include him, as long as he can be near-by. To this animal, I am the most important person on earth, and his world revolves around me.
We look for significance in our families. As children we crave parental acknowledgement and approval. I watch toddlers tugging and pulling at mom or dad, trying to turn their attention from whatever they are doing and onto themselves. “Watch me!” is a cry heard often from the lips of children. What they are really saying is, “do you see me?” Some children will sacrifice and push themselves to significant accomplishments in an effort to make mom or dad proud. Others resort to destructive activities just to get attention, to be “seen”. Because if you don’t even know I exist, then do I matter?
We look for significance from the opposite sex, at great peril to our self-esteem. Will anyone find me attractive? Does anyone want to be with me? Do you see me? And should we find someone who is willing to walk along our journey with us, we put even more pressure on the relationship. We ask our spouses to be intimately aware and interested in our day-to-day activities (which often as not are not their activities, and their focus is naturally elsewhere). Inasmuch as the spoken or unspoken childlike cry of “Watch me!” is unheeded, we may feel a lack of significance. After all, if the most important person in my life doesn’t “see me”, then do I matter?
We look for significance in our work. Yet, in truth, few of us can claim that the fruits of our labors will outlast our memory. I’ve been working on the same project for nearly 15 years, and I’m pretty sure it will disappear shortly after I retire. All that I’ve “accomplished” will come to naught. What about the people with whom I’ve crossed paths? Will anyone come to my “going away” lunch? Will there be one? Do I matter?
As we age, often sequestered in “retirement communities”, we look back on a lifetime of experience and wonder if there is anyone to share it with. in particular, do our children, in whom we invested so much of the energy of our youth, have any desire to be a part of our life? Does anyone want to hear our story? Does anyone see me? Do I matter?
The Bible teaches that God, the creator of the universe, the one who placed countless stars in the sky and put the earth in orbit around one; he who established boundaries for the oceans, raised up the mountains and lowered the valleys; who placed the moon in the sky to provide light in the night and cleanse the oceans with the tides; who filled the earth with green plants and adorned it with colorful flowers; who causes the trees to erupt in a cacophony of color before shedding their leaves for the stillness of winter; who delights in creating eagles and hawks to soar majestically above the earth and penguins and ostriches who cannot fly at all, and the albatross, who is inept at take-off and landing but who can fly for long distances without flapping; this God knows you and calls you by name, he has numbered the hairs on your head and loves you so fiercely, so passionately, so completely that he saw no choice but to die for your sake, so that you can be forgiven of your sins and restored to the relationship with Him that he has always desired; this God sees you.
If you are searching for significance, the only reliable place to start is with God. He will never leave you nor forsake you. You matter to him.
If you have significance, make an effort to give it to others.
- Interact with your parents, and other older people. Listen to their memories, ask their opinion. Make time to include them in your world.
- Give your spouse the gift of your undivided attention. Engage them in their world, and show interest in what they are interested in.
- Be present with your children. Get on their level and see what they see. Touch them, hold them, tickle them. Let them know that you see them.
- Take the time to interact with the people you encounter. Speak to the people who serve you: the lady at the store checkout, the waiter at the restaurant, the person who services your heater.
- Pet your dog.
You never know how much you may impact someone’s life because you made the effort to say, “I see you.”