by Ben White, pastor of Circle of Hope in South Jersey
To be known we must be seen. To belong is to be known. If we want to belong, which so many of us do more than anything, it follows then, that we must be seen.
We can think about this very concretely. We could belong by letting others put their eyes on us. A friend of mine often says, “It’s so nice to put my eyes on you.” I appreciate the intention of that sentence (don’t let it get creepy ). Seeing is not just a passive thing that happens. She is really looking at me. When you learned to read when you were a kid, at some point you got so good that when you saw a word in your language it became almost impossible not to read it. Putting your eyes on somebody with intention is not like that. But when you’re reading a poem you remember that each word was chosen with the intention to communicate something deep. Each word is not something that could or should be understood automatically.
When you look at someone you could just read the word, so to speak, of what is happening in front of your eyes: “Human.” But when my friend “puts her eyes on me” she means to communicate love and belonging. She is seeing me on purpose. In Circle of Hope we have come to know the power of seeing and being seen. Belonging is such a deep craving of, dare I say, every human soul? I think it is. And it starts with letting yourself be seen (which ain’t easy). It starts with seeing someone else (on purpose!).
Attention may be one of the only truly non-renewable resources we have. Because we are giving ourselves to another — we are giving them that moment of time — time which we will not get back. But showing up for one another, to be seen and to see, is the heart of our movement. We look through the lens of Jesus at all the beloved people in our lives and aim to really see them. Our eyes are opened widest to others in our lives when we feel seen and known ourselves. Hagaar was the first person in the Bible to name God. She called God “the God who sees.” Genesis 16:3 “She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.”
And how many times in the Gospels does Jesus “see” people? How often do the writers say that he looked or saw? It’s a lot! (here’s a few examples). When we look at one another with eyes of love — when we really “read the word” of another person, as if they were God’s poetry — we participate in God’s work. We see with the God who sees, with Jesus who spent so much time looking at the people he loved; we spread belonging.
The best place to practice this seeing and belonging is in a cell. See more here.