After my mom’s funeral, I heard one thing from all the relatives and friends filling our house. “You’re all your dad’s got now. You’ll have to be strong for you dad.” Because, you know, 17-year-old kids are always the best choice for pillar of the family.
Except for one person. I remember standing at our kitchen counter, pouring ice and lemonade, fighting the tears and sadness and anger blurred all together. I remember one of those relatives coming up to me, putting her arm across my very-small shoulders, and whispering, “It’s OK to cry. And it’s OK to want someone to be strong for you.”
That person, of all the well-meaning people there, noticed what I needed and quietly gave it.
We’re three weeks into a series on church. This week, let’s ask the question—if church is supposed to be a family, what does a good family look like? The first answer, based on my long-ago experience, is that a family notices its members. A family knows when one of its own is sad or joyful or scared or uncertain. A family sees, and a family takes note.
Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. (Roman 12.15)
This isn’t a command for God’s people to go around feeling all the feels all the time. Some of us simply aren’t “all the feels” material. It’s a command for us to notice. It’s Paul reminding us that nothing pulls a tribe together like being present with someone in her pain or her joy. Either one.
Hagar first labeled God as The God Who Sees. She recognized in Him one who would notice her, take her delicate feelings in His hands, and let her know nothing of hers was beyond his sight.
We are made in His image. We are to be The People Who See. There is nothing more powerful than the feeling of being seen.
- We see the child-woman who needs someone to acknowledge that not having a mother is cataclysmic.
- We see the mom who feels overwhelmed in an endless circuit of life with little ones who demand much and sap everything.
- We see the young man uncertain about his future since jobs are scarce, grades are mediocre, and money is tight.
- We see the older woman who worries about losing siblings and friends and independence.
- We see the upper-middle class dad who’s followed all the rules but still feels lonely and out of control despite his outward success.
We are to be The People Who See.
Notice what I didn’t say. I did not say we are to be The People with All the Answers.
I did not say we are to be The People Who Can Fix Everything.
I did not say we are to be The People Who Always Say the Right Thing.
Those people don’t exist. (And they can be pretty annoying when they think they do.)
We are to be The People Who See.
In God’s family. love=time + attention. Those of you familiar with the five love languages can see this in all of them. Whether we feel love through acts of service, gifts, time, words of affirmation, or physical touch, personal attention is required for each one.
Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith. (Galatians 6.10)
What would our churches look like if we all took the time to see? What if we reversed the commonly held belief that we go to church for what we can get and instead went thinking, “What can I see today? Who needs me to notice her this morning? What good can I do for one person before I leave?” What would happen if someone had done that for you when you last needed it?
I know what, because I remember how I felt standing there at my kitchen counter all those years ago.
I felt seen.
And that was enough to make it through.