Some of the deepest desires of people are to be seen, to be heard and to be known.
I can remember many times when I have been none of these things, often in the busiest of places. Think about the busy train station with thousands of people passing through now imagine the effort that you would have to go through to get the attention of all of those people.
Sometimes we see people, but we don’t want to hear them. The other day I was walking through the centre of Preston and was really conscious of the number of homeless people sat by the side of the pavement. It’s almost impossible not to see them, but few of us will take the time to sit and listen to them. In Chester the other day everyone was keeping wide of a man stood by a poster board and handing out religious leaflets.
A few weeks ago I was sat on a plane next to an older lady who was returning from a trip to America where she attended a sister’s funeral. While there she had decided that she needed a full cowboy outfit as memory of the adventure; this included cowboy boots, fancy jeans, denim jacket and hat. It must have been an interesting experience because she can’t have been more than 4′ tall and was a very slender lady. I imagine that she was fitted out in children’s clothes. She wanted to talk about her experience and I was happy to listen.
We’ve recently celebrated our Silver Wedding Anniversary and marked it with a gathering of friends. We received many cards and handed around a book for people to write their thoughts in. Reading the two sets of messages together it was striking how we were known by so many people in so many different ways.
Most Wednesday morning’s I meet with a couple of close friends for breakfast. As a group we have been through many highs and many lows together. This week I needed these friends to know about the highs of holidays and also some significant challenges in my life. This time and place is one where I can know that whatever else has happened I will be seen, I will be heard and I will be known. Thanks Dave. Thanks Bob.
The Genesis story describes the separation between people and God. The first sign of this is that Adam and Eve go to hide because they don’t want to be seen or heard by God. Many of Jesus parables tell us of God’s perspective; though we may try to hide God searches for us because He want’s to know us:
The Story of the Lost Sheep
By this time a lot of men and women of doubtful reputation were hanging around Jesus, listening intently. The Pharisees and religion scholars were not pleased, not at all pleased. They growled, “He takes in sinners and eats meals with them, treating them like old friends.” Their grumbling triggered this story.
4-7 “Suppose one of you had a hundred sheep and lost one. Wouldn’t you leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the lost one until you found it? When found, you can be sure you would put it across your shoulders, rejoicing, and when you got home call in your friends and neighbours, saying, ‘Celebrate with me! I’ve found my lost sheep!’ Count on it—there’s more joy in heaven over one sinner’s rescued life than over ninety-nine good people in no need of rescue.
The Story of the Lost Coin
“Or imagine a woman who has ten coins and loses one. Won’t she light a lamp and scour the house, looking in every nook and cranny until she finds it? And when she finds it you can be sure she’ll call her friends and neighbours: ‘Celebrate with me! I found my lost coin!’ Count on it—that’s the kind of party God’s angels throw every time one lost soul turns to God.”
I am so, so grateful to be seen, heard and known. The challenge to us, especially to those of us who call ourselves followers of Jesus, is to create the places where other’s can also be seen, heard and known. Someone who writes about this is Shauna Niequist. In her book called Bread & Wine she says this:
“The heart of hospitality is about creating space for someone to feel seen and heard and loved. It’s about declaring your table a safe zone, a place of warmth and nourishment.”
Hospitality around a table might not be your thing, but we can all create somewhere where others feel significant.