“If God is the only one who sees me, is that enough?”
That question has been rattling around in my head the last few days. The craving to be seen–to be valued, to be affirmed, to matter to people–is one I’ve wrestled with most of my life. And the funny thing is, it hasn’t gotten any easier.
The more my ministry or “platform” grows, and the more people see me online or speaking to groups, the more the craving grows too. The more people who follow me, the more I need people to follow me. The more visible I become, the more I chase after visibility.
As I mentioned in my post last week, Jacob’s wife Leah was a woman who felt unseen. She desperately desired to be seen by her husband, as symbolized by the name of her first son, Reuben, which means, “See, a son.” Leah thought her son would earn her favor, because Jacob’s other wife, Rachel, was barren. Leah hoped her ability to bear children would therefore set her apart. If she could give her husband an heir, he might finally, truly, see her.
But he didn’t. Leah’s efforts were in vain. So instead of satisfying her need to be seen, she found herself returning to the same strategy again and again, hoping for different results. She produced son after son, praying the next one would make the difference.
But each one left her feeling just as unseen as before.
In John 4, Jesus encounters a Samaritan woman who has come to draw water from a well. He explains to her, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst.” (13-14)
This exchange took place thousands of years after Leah, but doesn’t it capture the heart of her struggle? Her desire to be seen and valued by others, to find worth in her ability to produce, it was a well that could not quench her thirst. Like the Samaritan woman who returned to the well day after day, Leah was dependent upon her own brackish springs.
For me, being seen, valued, and affirmed by others is a well that, like Leah, I return to again and again. It never satisfies me. If anything, it leaves me thirstier than before.
But I don’t have to stay trapped in this pattern. In verse 14, Jesus tells us the way out:
“But whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
My desire to be seen isn’t wrong in itself. It’s the human-centered aspect of it that is the problem. I can perform for the attention of my peers, or I can rest in the attention of my God. I can seek validation from others, or I can seek for it in Christ.
I can live for others, and never truly feel alive, or I can live for God, and experience abundant life.
I can invest my confidence in making a name for myself, or I can invest my confidence in my identity in Christ.
Of these options, one path leaves me a hollowed out woman transfixed by her own insecurities, while the other produces in my heart a spring of living water.
So I have been asking myself, if God is the only one who sees me, is that enough?
Is it enough that only God sees me awake at night with a sick child, without me tweeting or Facebooking it to the world?
Is it enough that only God sees me clean the kitchen and bathrooms, even if my husband doesn’t notice?
Is it enough that God sees me serving at church, even if no one thanks me for it?
Is it enough that God sees my loving attention to my husband, without broadcasting our dinner date on Instagram?
Is it enough that God sees my writing about Him, whether or not it gets lots of share or makes a “Best of” list for the week?
Is it enough that God sees an act of kindness to a stranger, when no one else will ever know?
If God sees it, is it enough?
There are only two answers to that question. I’m learning that one answer leads down a path of emptiness and heartache. It leads down a path of striving and never truly resting. It leads down a path of sadness, insecurity, even spiritual death.
But there is another answer to that question, and it is a path that leads to life. It is free from being self-obsessed, and it is gloriously focused on Christ.
I’m not there yet, but I’m praying for the Holy Spirit to help me. And as a part of this process, I plan to fast from some of my social media during the coming season of Lent.
Because I’m tired of returning to wells that do not satisfy. And I know God created me for more.
How about you? What wells do you return to again and again?