Does Anyone See Me?
My sister was on homecoming court two years in a row.
For many, that means nothing, but when you grow up in middle America (where the best of life happens under the Friday night lights), homecoming court makes celebrities out of seventeen year-olds.
I was in the seventh grade then. And I knew I wanted to follow her. This was before she breezed through college and landed a lifetime career and found her husband. In the seventh grade, I saw my sister sitting next to the cutest boy in the school, atop a decorated convertible, circling the football stadium for the whole town to applaud, and I wanted to be her.
Really, I wanted her fame.
Except, I never made it to the final five when I was seventeen. My friends rode the convertibles with the cute boys while I leaned against the fence that lined the stadium track and watched. Celebrity evaded me.
I’ve since distilled high school down to one box of photo albums, varsity letters, yearbooks and an old pair of Birkenstocks, but the memory of my friends circling the football field while their names reverberated through the PA system into the autumn-night sky still hangs in my memory.
We’ve all crested forty now. Most of those high school boys have since lost their hair and I’m certain we girls wouldn’t last past midnight through one single sleepover.
Yet the reach we all had then (but of course never mentioned) is the same one that impedes our creative influence on the world today.
We wanted fame.
Our names echoed throughout the city.
Our lives noticed.
Our accomplishments celebrated.
And at forty, we still have that reach to be seen. To be known. To be celebrated.
From the beginning, “your eyes saw my unformed substance” says David in Psalm 139. David realized that he was known by those eyes.
This craving to be seen was wrought into us. By God. It’s what we do with it that shapes our days — that shapes our life.
The safe eyes of God, the ones that search in the corners of the house of my heart — surely well past the foyer … underneath the floorboards and behind the cobwebs – they are the ones that make me come alive.
And those eyes? They’re kindly leading.
In high school, I never circled the stadium on a convertible, but I came to know Jesus. They certainly weren’t mutually exclusive, but when I couldn’t access what I thought to be the greatest accomplishments the world could offer a seventeen year-old, I still had that craving.
And I found Him.
Now, it’s a bit more nuanced. As a Christian, I can both claim sonship — the state of being known by the Father — and yet work frantically to make a name for myself.
I can spend my days in a flurry of activity – feeling better when I’m productive and accomplished (even if it’s just within my task list).
I can feel the years-long sting on my insides when my best friend gets chosen to lead the group or speak at the conference or stand on the platform.
I can pick up a paintbrush or pen and “create” primarily with the audience in mind. What will they think of this writing? How will they receive this art?
I can do the adult version of standing at the fence, just off the football field, and craving fame with my life – never realizing how this reach for fame can make a life so very small. Limited.
Or I can return, again and again, to that teenage night I first saw Him, seeing me, seeing right into the back-corners of my life.
On that night, my feet crunched atop the hardened snow. It was a Michigan November and already the earth was masked in winter.
I was fifteen and was herded out into the dark alongside two hundred other teenagers for 20 of the quietest, most influential, minutes of my entire life as we all considered the gospel message we’d just heard inside.
I shivered under down, as tears dripped off the end of my nose onto my woolen mittens. I didn’t know I was hungry before this particular night. I didn’t know how unseen I’d felt until I realized that there were divine eyes that bore into me.
And they were kind.
They were perfect, yet still able to hold all of my imperfections within their safe gaze.
The stars that had been burning for centuries were electric that night, and I was small underneath them.
But I was seen. I was intimately known by the Creator of the milky way universe – who also made me. Peerless, by the One whose hands formed me in His likeness.
Though I made a substantive, one-time decision to follow Jesus that November night, it was the beginning of hundreds of decisions to walk back out under the Michigan sky and position myself underneath the only eyes that will ever deeply know me.
To look … there. At God’s eyes.
This fame – this being “seen” and celebrated by human eyes – is not merely elusive or vaporous, but it’s in the reaching for it that our lives become small.
He made me in secret (Psalm 139:15) for the kind of glorious awe that I won’t ever find in the applause of another.
[Sara has written more on this topic in her new book Unseen: The Gift of Being Hidden in a World that Loves to be Noticed.]