A Different Kind of Seeing

When Jesus came to the sycamore tree, he looked up and saw Zacchaeus. ~ Luke 19:5 (my interpretation)

 Walk joyfully on the earth and respond to that of God in every human being. ~ George Fox

My daily routine changed when the pandemic started. I got up in the morning, walked down to our church, and prayed and read spiritual books for about an hour. It was a good, healthy way for me to start my day and some unexpected blessings birthed from this morning ritual.

On my way to our church, I quite often saw our next-door neighbors sitting on their front porch, drinking coffee, and enjoying the morning sun. We have lived next to each other for over fifteen years but have not really gotten to know each other. We don’t see each other that much.

As I passed by them in the morning they would say, “Good morning neighbor!” And, I would respond, “Good morning to you, too, neighbor. How’s the coffee?”

During this time, I was ringing the church bell twelve times every day at 12 noon. I rang the bell for a variety of reasons in my mind: for the pure, beautiful sound of the bell, for the twelve disciples, for the hope and promise of a more peaceful future, for those who have died from the pandemic, for unity with our brothers and sisters, and for peace and restoration.

One day after ringing the bell, as I passed our neighbor’s house, he said, “Craig we sure enjoy hearing that bell ring. Thanks for doing that.”

“Sure,” I said. “What do you like about it?”

Our neighbor was quiet for a bit. “It just reminds us to be still. To pause and give thanks. It reminds us that there’s beauty even in the middle of this pandemic. I look forward to that bell ringing every day.”

I bowed my head in recognition. In that moment, I saw our neighbors in a new light. They are deeply passionate, reflective, caring human beings. I never thought poorly of them, but I never realized just how good they truly are. How did I miss that?

How was it possible for us to say “hello” and see each other over the years but not really see one another?

How often do we truly see our neighbors? How often do we truly see our spouse? Our children? Our parents? Our friends? Our enemies?

Father Richard Rohr states, “Spirituality is about seeing—seeing people (things) in their wholeness, which can only be done through the lens of our own wholeness.” To really see someone is to give that person a blessing. “In the gaze of true recognition there is a deep blessing,” says Father Ron Rolheiser.

How often do we spend time with a person and never really see them? We can spend a lot of time with our children, friends, or spouse but never see them. “We are often unseen even as we are being seen,” writes Rolheiser.  That’s why it’s a blessing to truly be seen. We know at a deep level when someone sees us, and it changes us.

Zacchaeus wants to see who Jesus is but cannot because of the crowds so he climbs a sycamore tree to see better. Jesus walks by the tree, looks up at Zacchaeus and says (my interpretation), “Hey Zacchaeus, it’s good to see you! What are you doing up there? Come down from that tree so we can spend some time with each other!”

Jesus sees Zacchaeus’ true self—his goodness, his kindness, his generosity. To truly see someone is to bless them. Zacchaeus discovers who he is, and he changes.  “I’ll give half my possessions to the poor and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.”

“To see someone or to be seen by someone else, in a positive light, is a blessing,” writes Rolheiser. We need to be blessed by being seen. A little child is getting ready to jump into a pool and is constantly looking to see whether her mom or dad is looking. A high school student looks into the stands before the game starts to see if his parents are present. We need to be seen. Jesus sees Zacchaeus in a different way.

Father Rolheiser states, “God blesses the world by seeing it. A good president or prime minister blesses the country by seeing the country. A good mother blesses her children by seeing them, as does a good father. A good coach blesses his/her players by seeing them. A good executive blesses the company by seeing his employees. A good friend blesses us by seeing us.”

Jesus sees and recognizes Zacchaeus’ true self, so there is a deep, rich blessing and their light shines.  We are blessed by being seen and we bless others by seeing them.

Let’s ask people to come down from their sycamore trees. “Hey, come down from that tree. Let me look at you. It’s so good to see you. You are a blessing.”

Blessings and peace,

This week: Look at a person with deep recognition. Can you see God’s image?