To Be Seen
One day a week, I get to see each of my students in person. One day in person (masked and distanced) and one day online. I’m sure everyone has heard about and participated in enough Zoom gatherings by now to imagine what this is like with teenagers. Teenagers and iPad cameras are not friends. Unless I ask, especially now at the end of a long year of this scenario, I am the only one with my camera turned on. Me and sea of black squares with my students’ names across them. This is the bleak landscape of my 2020-2021 classroom.
I don’t blame them. High school is hard; friendships are fickle, bodies are weird, love interests change every week--well, you remember. To be seen is to be vulnerable. When cameras are on, the rest of the class can see into one another’s homes; we can see other people who live in the house. When cameras are on, our whole faces take up the screens. I am still not used to the difference between how I look in the mirror and how I look through the screen! I know 16-year-old me would not have loved that.
So I really only get to see them one day a week. One day a week to learn each of their “tells,” their body language, and facial expressions (eyes and forehead only)! One day a week to learn how they carry themselves and how that changes throughout the day and with different emotions.
To be seen is to be vulnerable. Recently, on a Friday afternoon, I leaned down in front of a student’s desk to check in on her progress with a project. She was not having an okay day. This student has not been having an okay year, but that afternoon something was off. I asked her to tell me with numbers where her energy was--she held up a fist as tears filled her eyes.
To be seen is to be vulnerable. This Sunday’s readings remind us that we are so deeply loved and known and seen and called by God. But owning that--believing that--feeling that is not always easy. To be seen and known is scary. For me anyway. Once something is out of me and in the world, it is no longer just ours. The understanding that God sees us and knows us so deeply and loves us anyway--that is hard to teach. When we are hurting or struggling to love ourselves, it is so hard to think that anyone, let alone this Being of Love would want anything to do with our sorrow and pain.
God knows my flaws and loves me anyway. God knows I will mess up this disciple thing and loves me anyway.
The Gospel tells us we are so loved that we are trusted to do God’s work. With all of our flaws, we are given the role of being the hands and feet of Christ. We are called to take up the charge of being disciples in our own spaces. We are called to be responsible for taking that love and share it with one another.
To see one another and know one another, and love one another. To know one another and love the other anyway, despite what we know about them. Our “God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in them.” By seeing one another, being attentive to the ways another walks through this world, and loving them, we mirror that love of God.
To be seen is to be vulnerable. But to be seen is also to allow others in. To be loved and to love. To be seen is “to come to know and to believe in the love God has for us.”