One after the other. Page after page. I read their answers to my question. It was a simple question.
Who really sees you?
- Nobody really sees me.
- I don’t have any true friends that would come to my birthday party.
- I used to be happy and laughed all the time.
- I guess no one really sees me because I don’t think I even like who I am.
Oh, their hearts. Fragile, tissue paper hearts, worn thin by invisibility. These high school students with their souls laid bare for me to see. I wondered how to respond, how to mend their broken and torn places.
Because haven’t we all wondered if we are seen? Is there really a person in this great, wide earth who knows us—our every part? And when we’re seen, known, understood—will we be loved?
Almost every morning on my way to school I see her.
The mother and her two boys, waiting for the bus. One of those mornings I saw the bus was ahead. Early. Carrying a backpack flapping at her side, she was running. Her two boys were racing beside her—one with a distinct limp and an arm curled into his chest.
My heart clenched as I silently cheered her on. She was so close.
I sighed deep relief when I watched her boys reach the bus’s steps in time. The momma helped one with the backpack and kissed them goodbye. She smiled and waved back and forth as the boys took their seats.
When the bus pulled away, I looked back at her. The smile faded. Her shoulders sagged as she took a weary breath—exhaustion etched in her face.
I wanted to yell out the window “I see you! I see you, Momma! I see how hard you try every live-long day to be the best you can be!” I should have done it. But I didn’t.
We long to be seen. To be known.
Hagar. Slave of the Bible’s Abraham and Sarah. Mother of Abraham’s first son, Ishmael. Victim of jealous abuses. Because no one is perfect and the men and women of the Bible demonstrate their humanity. Because all humans are capable of the vile and the revolting.
Hagar flees to the wilderness, and she is met by God—a God who sees her devastation, her fears, her pain, her brokenness.
During those moments in a Middle Eastern desert land, Hagar proclaims God to be El Roi.
El Roi. The God who sees.
Those words? A sweet fragrance for my soul.
In a life that causes us to wonder if anyone sees us for who we are, we can know there is at least one. The God who met Hagar in the thirsty, parched sands is the same God who meets us in our deserts.
He is the same God who saw mankind’s deepest need and joined his children in their humanity on a winter night 2,000 years ago.
Emmanuel. God with us.
We are never hidden from the Father’s eyes. In truth, He is the only one who ever really sees all the fragments and pieces of our soul. Because the walls of our human hearts don’t exist in the realms of Heaven.
Aside from Mary and Joseph, do you know the first to worship at the feet of the newborn King? The first to witness Emmanuel?
Shepherds. They weren’t the elite. They were the unseen. The workers who labored and slept in fields to watch their flocks. They looked for dangers, for the lost, for the sick and abandoned.
They were the watchers. And they were often alone.
I wonder what it must have been to be a shepherd witnessing the Christ child that starry night. Too look into the eyes of an infant knowing they peered into the face of God.
The unseen looking into the eyes of El Roi—the God who sees.
The holiness of the moment stills my soul.
Because God calls to the unknown, the unseen, the invisible. He beckons us close to the manger to peer quietly over the edge. To witness Love nestled in a bed of warm hay.
And while I can’t fix the broken hearts of teenage students or tired mommas or broken friends, I can lead them to a manger. A manger of Hope.
He calls us close to whisper into our hearts.
I see you, he says.
I know you, he says.
I am with you, he says.
I have come for you, he says.
I love you, he says.