By: Brian Harris
Have you ever felt invisible? If it’s especially bad, people don’t notice you at all, if a softer version, they sort of see you, but have placed you in an inaccurate and limiting box.
You know there is more to you – but you struggle to get it out or for anyone to realise that there is a more significant you waiting to be discovered. It’s alienating, frustrating, and lonely. Sometimes we have landed up with a label – perhaps as a result of a major failure. We are the cheat, the unreliable one, the adulterer, the drunk, the druggie, the undisciplined dropout or whatever. There is a far richer side to us, but getting others to see it is hard, because this image gets slipped in along the way and it poisons future options.
By contrast, have you ever been seen – deeply seen – by another person? Perhaps they helped you to spot the complexity within you, and the beauty waiting to emerge. Sometimes it begins with a challenge: “You are coming across as though you are cynical, bitter and disillusioned, but that’s not you. You are better than that, I can see it in you. It comes across when you let your guard down, and your enthusiasm and idealism and hope and humour slip through… so why are you selling yourself short?”
If the person who sees this is a deep gift to you, they will listen carefully to your answer, they will help you to hear, explore and question it, and to ask yourself why you have settled for a lesser version of you.
We can truly transform another by seeing them, and by seeing them well. It usually means we have to move beyond first impressions and surface interactions. We need to look with curiosity rather than judgement; with hope rather than resignation; and with creativity, rather than a closed mindset.
Gen 16 records the story of Hagar running away from Sarai and Abram. As a slave, Hagar had never really been seen as a person in her own right. Pregnant with Abram’s child, she is relentlessly attacked by Sarai. It gets too much for her. She flees into the desert. It is there that an angel finds her and asks the most penetrating of questions: “Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?” (Gen 16:7) The answer is obvious. “Where have I come from? – from hell. Where am I going to? To my death. There is no future for me – none whatsoever.” If we want to really see another this double question is a good starting point: Where have you come from, and where are you going?
Surprisingly, the angel then prophesies over Hagar and sees possibilities for her and the son she would give birth to. They are not the most cheerful of predictions but they affirm a future, and they assure her “the Lord has heard of your misery.” (v11) Hagar’s response is deeply moving: “You are the God who sees me… I have now seen the One who sees me” (13). To be seen by and see the One who sees me…
What would it mean for you to see the One who sees me?
Or think of Exodus 3:7-8. Moses has just encountered God in a burning bush. God is about to commission Moses to release the Hebrew slaves from their bondage in Egypt. God self introduces with the words: “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out… and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come...” Here is a God who sees, hears, is concerned and comes… An amazing portrait.
How might we enter this week if we knew we had been seen and heard? And how might we transform the week for others by seeing, hearing, being concerned for them and coming to their aid? What would change if we genuinely saw the people we see?
About the Author: Brian is a sought-after speaker, teacher, leader, writer and respected theologian who has authored 6 books. After 17 years as principal of Perth’s Vose Seminary, Brian is now founding director of the AVENIR Leadership Institute, fostering leaders who will make a positive impact on the world.
Feature image: Photo by Ryan Gagnon on Unsplash