Wyatt’s in Tae Kwon Do. Seth’s hitting gymnastics. Our living room floor now groans under catapults and high-forward kicks and the ferocity of sweat-drenched boys. And, of course, they want Miska and me to watch. Every handstand. Every punch. Without an audience, it’s not nearly as much fun.
We never grow out of this desire to be seen. Nor should we. We were made to be reveled in, to receive another’s delight. However, in the sad twists of a world wounded by sin, we discover soon enough that no human can ever fill our desire. No kiss lasts long enough. No touch delves deep enough. No relationship or accolade or promotion or best-seller does the trick. The affirmation sticks for minutes, but unfortunately, the criticism lingers for years.
All this means that we live with a severe deficit, and so we claw harder, fight longer, grunting and preening. We’re desperate to be seen, desperate for approval. With all our desperation, all our exertion, we become the person we think will gain another’s nod, the person we presume others will find acceptable or intriguing or accomplished. The tragedy is that we lose ourselves. We become a caricature of the person God has made us to be.
I feel this temptation in my writing, wanting to be taken “seriously,” whatever that means. With such a shallow and selfish goal, I don’t give away what I truly have to offer the world. Rather, I give away what I think someone (and who exactly is this someone??) expects me to give away. I feel this temptation as a pastor, wanting to be seen as one who “leads well,” whatever that means. When I care much about how I’m seen, I inevitably care little about truly seeing others. I perpetuate this vicious merry-go-round, and we’re all spinning, spinning.
Frederick Bruner gives us this hopeful word: Jesus wants to liberate us from having to be impressive to anyone, including ourselves. God, that sounds good.