Scripture Connection: Genesis 16:1-16
Out of habit, I scan the shelves at the toy store, in the bookstore, and up and down the stacks in the library.
I search for actors in movies and on television. I look at conference brochures and magazine covers and struggle to find faces that look like mine. On the rare occasion when I do, I hold my head a little higher and walk with a more confident step. Seeing someone who looks like me helps me feel seen.
I grew up in a culturally Buddhist household. As one of a handful of Asian Americans in my graduating class of 600 in Colorado, the lack of representation and spiritual guidance caused me to swing between extremes when it came to my identity. I would go from feeling invisible to overcompensating through striving and seeking validation through performance.
On the one hand, based on how I looked, I knew I would never be the Homecoming Queen or date any of the popular boys. I remember awkwardly standing along the wall during the co-ed roller-skating parties. The boys never picked me to hold hands and skate to the love songs blaring over the speakers.
I didn’t feel desirable, noticed, or wanted.
On the other hand, I had leadership skills and kept being elected president—of clubs, the junior class, and even the whole school.
I began to find worth in titles and awards.
As much as I enjoyed leading, I recognized that all the positions and accolades could not fill the growing spiritual void in my life.
God lovingly and graciously drew me to himself, and I became a Christian in high school. As I began to read the Bible, I felt drawn to women and their encounters with God.
I connected with Hagar, the enslaved Egyptian woman in Genesis 16, who was considered property and was never referred to by name. I imagined she felt invisible. When she ran away, God saw her and went looking for her, calling her by name. She then gave God a name, El Roi, which translates to “the God who sees me.”
Isn’t that breathtaking?
You and I are known by name and always under God’s loving, watchful eye. “For the eyes of the LORD search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him” (2 Chronicles 16:9b).
The apostle Paul understood the importance of knowing our identity in Christ. Notice in several of Paul’s letters how he spends the first half grounding his readers in God’s unchanging character. His focus is on God, what he has done, and who we are in Christ.
Our service and conduct flow out of knowing God and being grounded in the truth of what he has done.
Our identity informs our service. However, Christians often flip the order and focus on behavior and performance as the way to be seen and accepted by God rather than as an outflow of our identity in Christ.
God didn’t make a mistake creating us just as we are. God knit us together in our mother’s womb with strengths and gifts. These influences and talents, like the family we grew up in, the color of our eyes, and the places we were born, are all outside our control. But God picked out the exact places we would live (Acts 17:26). He placed you and me here on earth during this time in history and prepared good works for us to do (Ephesians 2:10).
Deep security is found in being known, loved, and seen apart from performance and appearance. An identity grounded in the truth helps us operate in our gifts and strengths with freedom, generosity, and joy.
Having struggled with feeling unseen has expanded my heart to notice others who may also feel overlooked. By noticing those who may feel invisible—those with physical disabilities, single moms, widows, divorcees, those from different backgrounds, and underrepresented ethnic groups—I can acknowledge and honor their presence.
I have found that God often uses the very places where we experience pain to build connection with others. With our identity grounded in Christ, let us seek to love those around us by taking time to enter each other’s stories.
When was a time you felt unseen by others but seen and known by God?
God, thank you that I can rest in the knowledge that you see and know me. Open my eyes to those around me who need the same assurance and help me to share that hope with them.
The cashiers, the drive-through attendants, the waiters: How often are these people truly looked in the eye and called by name? Next time you are being helped by someone like this, call them by the name on their badge or ask them their name. Look them in the eye and say thank you. They will feel seen by you.