a couple thoughts on being seen
I've felt increasingly unseen as I've become an old woman. 76 now. We who have been lucky enough to live long have such a richness of story, selves, and (if we've worked at it) wisdom on the inside. But our outward appearance has become culturally almost offensive to some (why hasn't she gotten rid of those wrinkles?) and we are often dismissed or ridiculed. Old people jokes, anyone? The solution of course is to continue with the inner work, bond with others, and deepen our connection to God. Working on it. . .
"He saw who she was before her pain."
A cardiologist who taught PA and nursing students with my late husband spoke at their commencement ceremony one year and brought me to tears saying, "When you're working a long ER shift and the paramedics bring in someone who's falling-down drunk or stoned, and they're filthy and smell bad and they can't answer your questions and everybody is drawing straws for who has to treat them, I want you to stop for a moment and remember this person as someone's precious child."
OMG After 50 years of substance abuse and addiction. I am finally 21 months, clean and sober. Your article was God's message to me personally. I have been that woman bent over from suffering and abuse. I hope that God will see me and I, too, can be set free. Thank you Nadia from my heart to yours lindalu l
Thank you for this. I'm reminded of the time I was deep in grief after losing a friend to suicide, when one of the unhoused women in my neighborhood that I see regularly, Jenny, asked if I wanted to color with her when I was walking by, because I "looked like I was having a hard day." She didn't bog me down with questions about my friend or try to say "the right thing" that would make it better. We just sat on the sidewalk and colored and talked about bands and food together for half an hour. She saw me and helped me begin to heal in a way that no recovery meeting, church service, or coffee date with friends had managed to that point. I truly believe she saw me through God's eyes (or maybe God saw me through her eyes) that day. I'm forever grateful God's got spies everywhere. I've benefited from this more times than I care to admit.
Being seen, as in saying “hi” to a homeless person on the street. How many people just walk past without acknowledging the person’s presence, their humanity - same as our humanity, by the way? Talk about feeling unseen, invisible! If the non-acknowledgement is fear of the “other”, perhaps we need to reflect on that and how to overcome it. A simple, “hi”, in passing.
Needed this today. My beautiful daughter, 2 yrs sober and working in the recovery space, is serving a 6 mo sentence for an old charge. Despite dozens of support letters the system thought it made sense to take her away from the good she is doing and lick her away. She is strong but I see glimpses of the breaking down of her spirit. She’s in min security which sounds good, but in reality there are less resources as they are considered “short term.” We pray every day for early release. I sent her this post in multiple “chat messages” - an app that sometimes works. I want her to remember He sees her.
This absolutely struck me in the heart. Two years ago, my nervous system imploded. Specialists have no idea what happened. I began my healing journey with that last year. 54 days ago my Dad died of cancer. I was by his side the whole time, and now I feel I'm starting the healing journey all over again, which is normal. It's a process. But with that, my faith is a bit bruised and battered. I don't feel seen. I feel broken, but I know I'm not. I feel I need to grieve perfectly; I know that sounds weird. I know I will get through this and God is with me♥️Well, most days, I feel this way. I am taking it one day at a time.
I really like the paying attention to words in the Bible that we might just read past. Like noticing the words, "He saw her" and what that means. Years ago I was reading John 9 (my favorite healing story because it's got the whole range of human characters) where Jesus heard that the formerly blind man he had given sight to was being harassed by the religious professionals. And it says "...when he (Jesus) had found him (the man)..." It just really struck me that Jesus FOUND him; the image of Jesus stopping whatever he was doing and going to look for the man until he found him. I get that it mirrors the parable of looking for the lost sheep. But this guy had already had his miracle moment with Jesus and still Jesus was following up on the relationship. Anywhoops, the point being that it's helpful to pay attention to all the words in the story, not just the headlines.
An additional thought: a couple years ago I was pissed at myself for being judgey about wanting to end a conversation with someone I wasn't particularly interested in talking with at church. And I had the thought to just tell myself, "There's no place I'd rather be than here." I mean, it was kind of a lie, actually. But I've used that thought several times since then. "There's no one I'd rather talk to right now than this person." And it's surprising how much easier it is to stay focused on them and "see" them. Mind games might be useful games, I guess.
I no longer feel so bent by the internal effects of childhood & teen traumas (which I've experienced a lot of healing around), though of course there is still some of that and probably always will be. Instead, I feel the most bent by inhumane external forces over which I have no power -- by injustices embedded in capitalism/patriarchy, and my inability to play the toxic game well enough to thrive or 'win' inside of its seemingly inescapable authority, reach, and domination.
God, when applied correctly (and it pains me to say that; how stupid that we need to caveat our faith these days), and mental health go hand in hand, in my opinion. I believe the hardest part is understanding that healing is a process and takes time. I remember struggling with an intense depression nearly 30 years ago, and I went into Scripture to try to cherry pick some feel good verses. I found nothing that I understood how to apply to my situation. Faith is a refuge that leads to a solution, not necessarily an immediate solution itself. Only after all this time have I learned that. Perhaps that’s why we see people falling away; if it doesn’t work immediately then why stick with it? It takes time, and yes it takes acknowledgment. Thank you, Nadia, for reinforcing this point.
This wrecked me. Shit. Thank you
This story hits me in the gut having transformed from a tall somewhat attractive man to a gnarled Wheelchair-bound senior suffering from end stage Rheumatoid Arthritis. Frankly in appearance I have become The twin of Star Wars villain Emperor Palpatine. I find my affliction as being more isolated not wanting to be seen in this state. Fortunately with a loving spouse, family and close friends I am able to rise up in my image as Jesus helped the woman in the temple. I pray that Jesus can help me to metaphorically rise up in times I find my good humor and spirit waning. My own self-image can be my enemy.... Thank You for this forum in which I can express my inner fears....
As you said, Nadia, carrying a burden can make us feel special. This feeling flies so below the radar we don't know it's there. It can hurt to be fully seen even if it's what we long for, in part because we think it may take away what makes us different or the attention we get from others.
I remember reading Dr. Bernie Siegel's work decades ago where he talked about the need for some folks to stay sick even if there is help for them. This is not a conscious decision but may be due to an unwillingness to bear the discomfort that comes with healing. Sobriety is a great example, in recovery we are called to be fully seen without numbing out. This is very difficult at first and certainly doesn't feel like we are standing in the light! It's only by continuing to walk the path that shed the paid and allow ourselves to be seen (a vulnerable and scary thing).
I think this is part of life’s journey to see ourselves and see others with forgiveness, acceptance and love as much as is possible in this life. I had a vision of Christ in my twenties, kneeing at the communion railing in an old Church in Denmark. I felt completely seen as He looked at me and said, Marjun, Follow Me. I had no clue what was happening but it came to me later.
Whoa, once again your thoughts appeared in my inbox when I SO NEEDED THEM. Thank you, Nadia.
I love your specificity with the unclean spirts. Powerful!
Help us Jesus!