Ian loves to people watch. As an artist he looks at a person with an interest to know their story. With the millions of hours logged in waiting rooms, he’s had plenty of practice. Since I’m typically his escort, I’ve gotten caught up in it too. Our conversation goes something like this… “Her name is Alice. She spoils her grandkids rotten and makes a mean pecan pie. “No, mom, she looks like a Helen and she’s the jokester at the old folks home, plays the piano and still rides her Harley. ” We go back and forth and then Alice/Helen is born from some amalgamation of our ideas. This banter is the inspiration for Ian’s art exhibit “People Watching”. Intrigued by someone, Ian paints his portrait and writes a creative, fictional vignette describing him. (You’ll have a chance to see more next May 2019 when he exhibits at Harwood Art Center.)
I’ve noticed something. Something I’m not proud of. My first thoughts when looking at a person are not typically the fun facts. My first thoughts are subtle judgements. Judgements that I pronounce over someone because well… apparently my opinion matters. Or more likely, my judgement about someone else, makes me feel better about me. I notice a 30 something woman waiting for PT… “She must love Walmart. She needs to lose some weight. And that tattoo… yikes, it is doing her no favors.” I rationalize, everyone must do it. They are just innocent thoughts. I would never speak them out loud. And just like that, satan has his foothold.
“What would Jesus Do” a slogan popularized in the 90’s and shortened to WWJD. I have a button emblazoned with the letters. “WWJD”. But with all of my people watching, the thought has crossed my mind, what would Jesus see? WWJS?
I googled WWJS to see if it’s a thing. If it’s a known acronym? It turns out the WWJS is a TV station in Jeffersonville, Indiana. And, it appears in the Urban dictionary as What would Jesus Say. But, I like my twist… What would Jesus SEE.
Who do you know whose face doesn’t match their story? Take Ian, for example. His ginger hair fully grown back, thick and full, covers a roadmap of scars. His obvious limp and rigid right hand may be the first tip off, but his engaging personality deceives most. After a few minutes though, you’ll notice things. Things he would rather you not notice. Things that he can’t help and can’t hide. I wonder if the reactions of others would be kinder if his hair didn’t cover the scars. In other words, if people could SEE.
We all have hair covering our scars! Picture the person you ENVY… the slim, pretty, athletic woman with a nice family, who lives comfortably with no health challenges. (or whoever your nemesis is!) Guess what …she doesn’t exist. And if you think she does exist, she has hair covering her scars too.
What would Jesus See… What would Jesus See, when looking at me? I bet he wouldn’t notice that I didn’t wash my hair or my extra pounds and jiggle. I bet he wouldn’t see my non designer clothes, my piled laundry or the weeds in my yard. He’d look past all of that and peer deep into my soul. He’d see my disappointments, my fears, my insecurities and my deepest longings. He’d see my pride, my selfishness and my anger and not even flinch. Instead, He’d blanket me with grace. Grace for my impatience with Ian to get out the door. Grace for the unkindness towards the clerk just doing her job. Grace for the yolk laden across my back, trying again to carry it alone. Still peering, with kind compassion, He’d see the ache in my heart overwhelmed most days. He’d see my struggle to embrace the present and my futile attempts to escape it.
Then… after some time I realize… wait, Jesus is looking at me! I straighten, focus and plaster on a smile. Jesus, saddened because I can’t see what He sees, comes close. With His finger He lifts my chin to meet His gaze. “Debbie, do you know what I really see”? “No,” I respond, confused by His question. “I see my Daughter. My daughter who is fearfully and wonderfully made. The apple of my eye.” And in that instant, all pretentiousness melts. My shoulders relax and I collapse into His loving arms.
What a gift to be KNOWN like that and still loved! What intimacy! When you are known, you are seen!
Do you know the story of Hagar? (See Genesis Chapter 16) She was a nobody. A foreign slave girl to Sarah, Abraham’s wife. The story goes… God promised Abraham many descendants, but after ten years, Sarah, still barren with a ticking biological clock, took matters into her own hands. Sarah gave her servant Hagar to Abraham, in accordance with the custom of the day, so that Sarah could have a child through her (Genesis 16:2). In today’s vernacular, Sarah pimped Hagar with her husband to bear her a child. When Hagar conceived, Sarah despised her and treated her harshly. Hagar flees to the desert. Then, Hagar encounters God. I encourage you to read the entire account. It is full of God’s goodness. The story climaxes in verse 13 She (Hagar) gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen[c] the One who sees me.”
Hagar’s story reminds us that, no matter who we are or where we are, the Lord God sees us. Really sees us! AND STILL LOVES US.
That’s it. That’s my problem. I am seeing others with my feeble eyes. I am seeing others through the veil of my own sin.
Convicted… in the same therapy waiting room, 2 days later, I encounter the same 30 something woman. I learned her name is Tammy. She looks different to me today. She looks thirsty. Thirsty for the only One who can truly quench her thirst. With empathy, I pray for Tammy.
Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”
Dear Jesus, forgive me. Forgive me for my judgement of others. I can’t see their scars. I can’t know their story. Jesus, burn the cataracts from my eyes so I can see others through your lens. Thank you Jesus for Tammy. And thank you for seeing me!