It’s true, the “look of love is in your eyes.” From the lingering gooey gaze signaling the smitten, to the affectionate study of their “person” by a much-loved canine, eye contact conveys, “you are noticed, you are special, you are loved.” But when there is very little eye contact from other human beings, we feel ignored, unimportant, unworthy.
I’ve been thinking about how eye contact has a humanizing effect ever since this summer’s jump-start on our CBS study of The Book of Acts. (thanks to a fellow learner for introducing me to the Journible, which caused me to slow down my reading and reflection of scripture, helping me “see” more in His word.) I noticed something in Acts 3:1-10 — and was convicted. Then this landed in my inbox, timed by God to propel me from conviction to action. (Be sure to follow Alicia Bruxvoort’s writing with Rooted in Truth Scriptures, Growing In Love Practical Application, Listen and Watch.)
Giving When We Have Nothing to Give
“So Hagar gave this name to the Lord Who spoke to her, ‘You are a God Who sees.’” Genesis 16:13a (NLV)
I was on my way home from the store when I saw her standing there, feet planted between two dingy piles of melting snow on the corner of a busy intersection.
The cardboard sign in her hands broadcasted her desperation, and my stomach churned with empathy when I read the sloppy scrawl. But what could I do? I had three gallons of milk in the trunk, two $1 bills in my wallet and a pack of pink bubble-gum on the dashboard.
When the traffic light turned green, I turned my head away from the quandary on the corner and steered my van toward home.
I’d driven no more than a mile when a thought lodged in my mind like a holy whisper and refused to leave: Go back, and let her know you see her.
I thought about how I’d looked the other way when I’d turned that corner at the stoplight as if the woman in need were invisible.
What hurts worse, I wondered: the pain of desperation or the pang of disregard?
Reluctantly, I returned to that busy intersection and left my car in a nearby parking lot.
I grabbed the wrinkled bills from my wallet and headed toward the woman, fears simmering with every step. What if she’s offended by my small offering? What if I just make things worse?
“Ma’am, how can I help you?” I asked when I reached the woman with the weathered face.
“I need work,” she said with quiet resolve. Then her troubled tale spilled from chapped lips and a raw heart.
I didn’t mend her maladies or judge her wounds. I just stood on that wind-whipped corner and listened. Because sometimes the simplest way to affirm someone’s significance is to take time to hear her story.
What happened next wasn’t like a script from a poignant Hallmark movie or a plan from a tidy Sunday school lesson. It was more like a snapshot from an awkward junior high dance.
“I don’t really know how to help,” I admitted, my eyes brimming with hot tears. “But I do know Jesus, and I know He really loves you …”
I glanced at the parking lot, longing to leave. But before I walked away, I asked, “Could I just pray for you?”
Much to my surprise, the weary woman gave a quiet nod and set down her cardboard sign.
In Genesis 16, we find another desperate woman caught in a web of woeful circumstances. Hagar isn’t planted on the corner with a cardboard sign; rather, she’s plodding through the desert with an unborn child and a forlorn soul. And just when her situation seems hopeless, God sends a messenger to encourage her heart.
Interestingly, the messenger’s words don’t immediately change Hagar’s plight. But they promptly change her perspective. The woman who once felt unseen now finds herself undone by a simple truth. God sees her. He knows her pain. He has a plan.
I’ll be honest. I’m often tempted to ignore someone’s need simply because I don’t know what to do. But the story of Hagar reminds us that even when we don’t know what to do, we can point to the One we know, the One who sees.
We may not have a solution for every problem, but we carry a salve for every soul. As believers in Jesus, we carry the hope of the gospel. We know a God who is present in pain and patient in trouble, lavish in mercy and long-suffering in love. And we know our Creator treasures every person He’s created on this spinning globe.
I declared this gentle truth over the woman on the corner that day. And when I finished praying, she thanked me through a haze of tears.
“What’s your name?” I asked as I bid my new sister farewell.
“Daisy,” she replied, her pink lips up turning in a subtle smile. I returned the smile and watched as she stood a little taller, her shoulders no longer hunched and drooping.
Then I walked back to my van and headed for home for the second time that day. But this time as I rounded the corner, I didn’t look the other way. I gave Daisy a wave through my window and let my eyes declare what I hoped her heart was beginning to believe: You are not invisible. You are invaluable. The God Who Sees, sees you.
Dear Jesus, forgive me for the times I’ve ignored the needs of Your people in my path. Use me to bring Your hope to the hopeless and Your presence to those in pain. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Hagar’s story of God-encounters continues in Genesis 21:8-20. Read it and ask God to speak personally to you.
Rooted In Truth Scriptures: (reminders for those in distress) Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. 1 Peter 5:7 Just as a father has compassion on his children, So the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him. Psalm 103:13 “So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.” Matthew 10:29-31 (reminders to engage the stranger) …for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7 Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. Hebrews 13:2 “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” Matthew 25:35-40
Growing In Love Practical Application: Is there someone in your life who needs to know she’s seen by God? Prayerfully consider how to encourage her today. Are your eyes on a screen in order to avoid or minimize face to face interaction with humans? Take a walk, sans screens, greeting whoever you pass, neighbor or stranger. When was the last time you were out running errands and intentionally made eye contact and friendly conversation with a cashier, bank teller or any service provider? Slow down and choose to bless someone. Do you pretend to be occupied when passing a person — like Daisy — because you don’t know how you can address their problems? Put together some small gift bags filled with practical items and a note that they are seen and loved by God to keep in your passenger seat, ready to hand out the window with a kind word and a smile. Or line your wallet with a handful of $5 Starbucks’ or McDonalds’ gift cards wrapped in a kind note to hand out to someone seldom noticed.
Listen: Tauren Wells is quickly becoming one of my new favorite recording artists
Watch: The Help scene where Aibileen teaches Mae Mobley that she matters, even if her own Mama fails to convey it.