We were made to be seen.
God’s eyes saw our substance, being yet unformed, and in his book all our days were written (Psalm 139:16). Many of us had our baby hairs clipped and scrapbooked, cherished as an earthly marker. Our lives had a witness.
Eventually, the counting of our “firsts” — first tooth, first step, first word — ends. But our craving to be seen grows and often morphs into applause-seeking, so we reach for that congratulatory remark or acknowledgment of our good work — often unconsciously. Yet the human eyes, and even the accolades, leave us empty, still grasping.
All the while, God sees what others don’t. His eyes witness. His tender, substantive look into me satisfies like nothing else. His eyes free me from reaching for vaporous human applause.
God often hides me from the eyes of others so that I can find his.
One unseasonably warm fall night, he hid me.
We had chased paper across the ocean for children we newly met — children who had just started calling us Mommy and Daddy. The airport packed with friends and family upon our return reminded me how we all love a good ending. But as many adoptive parents learn, the story doesn’t end at the homecoming.
Soon after this reception, we found ourselves at a dinner party. The warm familiarity of greetings from old friends encircled us as we entered the foyer, ready to introduce our new two. Then, abruptly interrupting our hugs and hellos, one of my preteen children leaned in and unleashed a deafening, high-pitched howl into my ear.
She left me stunned and everyone else silenced. Our friends averted their eyes and quickly continued their conversations. I spent the rest of the evening in a deaf haze, aware that our unfinished story was no longer looking like a joyful, glorious homecoming.
I had come reaching for validation. But the aftermath of that awkward introduction only left me feeling unknown — perhaps even judged as a mom tolerant of such rudeness from her preteens. My gaze, fixed on the hearts of my children, faded in the howling glare of my child’s odd explosion.
But it was in the hiddenness from the eyes of those friends that I rediscovered God’s eyes.
Hidden to Be Found
During the car ride home, my conversation with God went like this: When those around me fail to applaud me, show me, again, your Psalm 139 eyes, God. David says, “O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up” (Psalm 139:1–2), telling us of the eyes that kindly and constantly bore into him. That night, God reminded me I had not actually been misperceived or unknown: “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb” (Psalm 139:13).
There was much more to that night for me than a mere mingling of old friends. I was reaching. I wanted these friends to see, to acknowledge the sweat and the tears of our ongoing story — I had been reaching for something my friends could never give. When the applause wasn’t there, God’s eyes on me filled me. His eyes satisfied the deep craving I had to be seen.
As I received those tender eyes, this night that had felt empty and lost gave him glory and brought my soul satisfaction. He had hidden me, that I might find him anew.
In the Secret Place
My remembrance and reception of God’s eyes have traveled with me far beyond that dinner party. I have six children now, who span from diapered babies to teenagers.
My late-night talks and early-morning swaddles can feel taxing — when I perceive them to be unwitnessed. The road I walk alongside a husband-entrepreneur with risky pursuits can feel stressful — when I wait for man’s validation. Another load of laundry, another conversation with children about the ache of their adoption history, another meal to make for persnickety eaters can feel terribly lonely — when I forget that not a single moment of my life is outside God’s watch.
David reminds us, “Where shall I go from Your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?” (Psalm 139:7). God witnesses. God is present. God engages my hidden minutes. And he engages yours.
In the secret corner of your office, where you diligently produce work that will never have your name on it — he is forming you.
In the secret clutter of your laundry room, where you fold whites that will be soiled and discarded in days — he is making you.
In the secret nights of caring for a sick child or parent, when you stretch in love and pray in the dark — he sees you.
Seen by the Right Eyes
From this angle, the seemingly unproductive minutes begin to matter. They certainly matter to God, who searches and sees. And, in them, he can make us. When I am unseen by those around me, I remember the eyes that set me free.
“How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!” (Psalm 139:17) can be the whispered prayer at three o’clock on a Monday afternoon. These once-resented moments become great gifts. A gift that we receive from him and one we give to those we can love without expectation that they would satisfy our craving to be seen.
Because we are already seen. And being seen by him is more than enough.