Things are not always what they seem.
Once when we drove along Carmel's scenic coast, I spied a brown sea otter. Excited, I told my family.
We simultaneously realized the "otter" was a large piece of brown seaweed bobbing up and down in the Pacific Ocean.
Now, whenever I say I see a sea otter or a seal, my family teases me: "Are you sure it isn't seaweed?"
I chuckle, and insist it really is, whatever I say it is. And I look twice before I speak.
What do you see in the photo below?
I see a slate colored seal on a gray and ivory mottled rock with brown seaweed.
Sometimes I can see a situation or a person, but I forget to see with God's eyes. When I look at a person with only my eyes, I forget to see through God's eyes of love and grace.
When I rely only on my vision, I may miss the truth about a person or a situation.
This past Saturday, I blew it. I became irritated because I wanted to be on time to an event. My family did not share my sense of urgency.
Our daughter shared how my "nervous energy" (her words) affected her. My husband pointed out we had enough time.
My heart heard them, and I felt remorse.
The funny thing is I prayed* for God to show me where I needed to change. He answered in less than an hour.
Sigh. Yes. Apparently my prayer was a rush order.
If you sincerely pray for God to show you where you need to change, He will honor your desire.
God showed me what was underneath my irritation and fear of being late. When I was a child, a certain person would often get very agitated, and anxious about being on time.
I realized I was letting my inner child control my emotional state instead of God's Spirit and the calmer adult me.
What I saw was truth: if we were a little late, the world was not going to end. It really wasn't a big deal in life's big ocean.
Unlike us, God never looks at a person as an impediment or a means to a goal. He sees each person as unique and worthy of love and respect. (Want to tweet?)
The truth is my relationship with my family is infinitely more important than being on time.
I apologized to my family. They forgave me. We left on time, but more significant, my family felt loved by me.
God looks beyond outward behavior to our soul's inner workings, the real engine driving our actions.
God wants to heal the broken parts of our soul.
When we see ourselves and others with God's eyes, we will look beyond the obvious outward signs.
Sometimes the person I misjudge is myself.
Some of us may have grown up without unconditional love, and we struggle to receive God's nonperformance-based love. We fight to live in the freedom and truth of our identity as God's beloved.
Our own brokenness blinds us to our own faults, and sometimes to the faults of others, in an unhealthy codependent way.
Sometimes we fail to see our own beauty or another's loveliness underneath a cranky exterior.
We need new eyes.
I constantly ask God to help me see with His eyes. To see beneath the surface behavior, yours or mine, and understand more is present than what is visible.
None of us can see all the emotional scars someone carries. We can't see some of the physical struggles others have.
Some disabilities are obvious, but some are hidden, such as chronic fatigue.
It is hard work to see beyond the surface of one's life, or another person's life. It takes time. But it is necessary for compassion, not control, to reign.
How do we learn to be more compassionate?
By slowing down, and being honest with God about what we are feeling. Uncensored.
By listening to how God uses our bodies to speak to us. The chest tightening. The exhaustion.
When I slow down, take note of what I am feeling, and talk to God about it, He surprises me with His compassion.
God is more compassionate than most of us know.
If we open our hearts to His compassion, He will give us compassion for others and for ourselves (2 Cor. 1:2-4). As we learn to be kind to ourselves, we also learn to be kind to others.
It doesn't mean we don't speak the truth in love when necessary.
It just means we only do it when it is needed and not because we are annoyed.
When we see another/ourselves with compassion, we will truly see with God's eyes.
* This is what I prayed:
"LORD Jesus, give my heart eyes to see and ears to hear the ways I need to change. May I be more deeply, radically, and powerfully transformed for your name's sake. Amen."
Prayer by Peter Scazzero, The Daily Office: Remembering God's Presence Throughout the Day, p. 57.
What helps you to really see someone?
When has God opened your eyes to see a situation differently? Open my eyes with your words.
P.S. I like how the concept of empathy is expressed in a video based on David Foster Wallace's 2005 commencement address at Kenyon College.
Linking with these lovely communities:
Sweet and gifted friend Laura Boggess,
Linking with encouraging and talented friend Jennifer Dukes Lee,
and the amazing Jen