I remember the feeling like it was yesterday. The excitement and the dread, all tangled up into one, gnarly ball of adolescent feeling.
We agonized over dresses. Taffeta or faux-silk? Tea-length or knee-length?
We agonized over hairstyles. Pinned up or let loose? Crimped or hot-rolled?
We agonized over heels. If you were a tall girl like me, especially heels. Flat? Modest pump? Sky-high heel?
To our thinking, any one of those choices could make all the difference between social acceptance and social exclusion. Particularly at junior high school dances. Most especially when the DJ announced the inaugural slow dance of the evening over the synth-bathed intro of Lionel Richie’s “Hello.” Your particular song may have been different, but I bet the moment was the same.
The lights would dim; the music would slow, as the guys and gals who were “going with” each other took the center stage under the sparkling disco ball. At the same moment, many of us would exit the dance floor, moving to the edge of the room—some standing, some sitting in the very same school chairs we would study Romeo and Juliet come Monday morning. We waited as the fresh-faced guys moved up and down the line of chairs, taking us into account, figuring out who would (and who would not) be accompanying them onto the dance floor for the next three and a half minutes. We tried not to look too dispassionate or desperate. Skittish wallflowers every one, we hoped our fashion and social choices would be perfect enough, just right enough, to bring about our deepest wish.
We were dying to be chosen.
Being chosen meant you had value. You belonged. Conversely, not being chosen brought insecurity, shame, and a few of its nasty friends.
Being chosen was everything.
Remember those days?
Looking back, I wonder if underneath the adolescent wish of being picked existed a much deeper heart-cry.
I wonder if we were really dying to be seen.
Could it be that underneath all the glitter and effort, we were hoping and praying that someone would see us for us, and choose us because of that. And even now, as grown-ups, when we know better than to hang our hearts (and value) on a three-minute slow-dance, we still share something in common with our internal junior-high, wallflower selves, don’t we?
We are still dying to be seen. We’re still hoping for someone to acknowledge us, to affirm us, and to say to us—no matter the age or the stage of our lives—“I choose you. You are not invisible. You are seen.”
It seems that that particular need, that heart cry—to be seen—has been woven into our spiritual DNA from the very beginning of time.
Just ask Hagar.
In the book of Genesis, we meet her. Hagar was a woman who had been cruelly mistreated, and had absolutely no reason to trust the Hebrew God or His people. After running into the desert to escape the awful behavior of a jealous and scheming mistress, Hagar finds herself stranded in the desert with no help and even fewer prospects. Oh, and, Hagar has a baby on the way. She has been utterly deserted; no human eye sees her desperation. If God doesn’t “see” Hagar, she is probably going to die.
Hagar is literally dying to be seen.
And, yet, Hagar, in a stunning moment of faith, after talking with God, cries out, “You are the God who sees me—El Roi.”(Gen. 16:13)
You are the God Who sees me. You are El Roi.
In fact, this particular name of God is used only once in all of Scripture. Right here, in Hagar’s story.
Needless to say, God does not disappoint Hagar in the desert. He sees her fully, meets her needs, and even instructs her for the future. During this encounter, the Bible records something kind of breathtaking about the name El Roi: It is Hagar herself who gives God the particular name. Hagar names God.
She could have named God many things after her desert encounter with Him. God, her provision. God, her comforter. God, her wisdom. Surely God was all these things and more.
But, rising to the top of Hagar’s heart, the most important revelation of God’s character in her dry and dangerous desert is this: He sees.
Even after a quarter of a century of walking with Christ, I still stumble into situations when I wonder if He really sees. Anyone else? I think as long as our hearts are beating, we’ll collide with moments like that.
But as I journey on, something is happening: my wallflower is giving way to a heart more like Hagar’s. A heart that can exclaim, even in the driest, darkest circumstances, “there is a God who sees me.” A heart that truly believes if God sees, then it truly doesn’t matter who else does or doesn’t.
And believing that has made all the difference.
For three years (2007-2009), Allison Allen experienced the joy of being a Women of Faith dramatist. She counts walking the same platform as the Women of Faith “porch-pals” among one of the profound honors of her life. She also performed the hand-jive in the Broadway revival of Grease over 650 times. Allison loves weaving Biblical teaching and acting pieces together in unexpected ways, and is over the moon to teach at conferences and retreats around the country. You can read more from Allison in the Loved by God Devotional.