I See You

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.
Zephaniah 3:17

“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.”

I am gonna confess, support me

And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit
Ephesians 5:18 (NASB)

I’ve always resonated with this translation of this verse, even if it’s not the most accurate. The word “dissipate” evokes the image of a cloud of smoke steadily expanding until it has been subsumed into the vastness of the atmosphere around it. It is an evaporation, a wasting of what was once something into nothingness. In the context of the passage, drunkenness can clearly be seen to be a dissipation of the gift of life. Now, the use or non-use of alcohol is one of those taboo topics in many Christian circles. Some, in a pharisaical attempt to avoid transgressing this instruction avoid all alcohol. Others choose to imbibe in moderation. But that’s not what this post is about.

There was a game of “tag” going around on Facebook. Someone posts a particular (potentially outrageous) status. Anyone who “likes” or comments on it is required to post one of the status messages on their wall. I was caught, and posted the subject status. One of my dear friends, who has been instrumental in challenging my works-based perception of value and approval (although I doubt she has a clue how significantly she’s impacted me), got caught but refused to play. She claimed not to have enough time for games on Facebook, although we probably spent as much time talking about it as it would have taken to play. Still, she has drawn a line governing her on-line actions, and I respect that. One thing she said was, “I’ve seen several people post this but no confession is forthcoming.” Well, here it is.

I had an odd dream. A friend and elder in our church was teaching and used a “colorful” word that is common in our society. In my dream, I challenged him on it, and he said, “I’ll deal with it when God speaks to me about it.” I accept that we all have plenty of sin to work on in our lives, and I generally choose not to try to play the Holy Spirit with other people, but this was public and egregious, and Christians just shouldn’t use that word! In my dream, as I tried to make my case on why this needed to be addressed now, I remember saying this line. “If your little devotion doesn’t result in God speaking to you about your life, then it’s a waste of time.” In my dream, the next thing I heard was God saying to me, “And what am I speaking to you?”

The word amuse derives from the old French word muser, meaning to stupify. Also evident are the Latin roots a (not) and muse (to think deeply). In other words, “amuse” is to not think. That’s a pretty fair description of many of our amusements. We may sit in front of the “boob tube” to be entertained (amused) or play “mindless games” on the phone or computer, sometimes as a means of unwinding from a long or stressful day. For the current generation, it’s as likely to be watching the drama and inanity of people’s lives stream by on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

Whatever your chosen amusement, I’m not here to speak against entertainment. No, rather I’m here to confess the dissipation of my life through amusement. I sit down in front of my computer and my favorite pastimes (think about what that means as well) reach out and grab me, immobilizing me and causing the precious hours of my life to evaporate into history, with nothing to show for it.

Periodically, I’ll take a Quixotic tilt at my addiction, typically for Lent or maybe Advent. Or maybe just an ad hoc fast to prove it doesn’t have absolute power over me. However, I can’t hide from what God is speaking to me any more. Nor am I content to watch my life pass like a puff of smoke. I’m not sure what this is going to look like, but I know that it’s time to put away those things that waste my time, and to give myself to more worthwhile pursuits.

What is God speaking to you? Are you even listening? Are you putting yourself in a place where you can hear, or are you trying to hide? Or are you walking in power? As Christians, it is our heritage and right as adopted sons and daughters of the Most High God to live lives victorious over sin. This doesn’t mean that sin is mystically excised from our lives. It means that we get to look it in the face and put a knife through its heart and live in obedience to God, rather than in slavery to our lusts and passions.