Advent 19: The Value of Being Seen

by Gustave Doré

At the public school where my ten-year-old son is in fifth grade, the principal has taught the students the South African greeting, “Sawabona,” which translates to, “I see you.”

They respond, “Sawabona sikhona.”

“Because you see me, I am here.”

I have a friend who simply tells me that in English, usually when we’ve had a deep and meaningful conversation. “I See You.”

I feel Seen.

Just yesterday, I had a moment of feeling Seen. While much of my demeanor is heart-on-my-sleeve, I have my masks, the little disguises I wear to cover and protect parts of myself that don’t feel safe to reveal in certain settings. It was a little thing, really, but it opened up a tiny nest of calm in a place where belonging can sometimes feel a little tenuous.

It was only a book recommendation, offered in a quiet moment. But it felt like a gift, a way of saying, “I See You.” Not a tearing off of my mask, but a nod to the truth beneath it.

My masks are part of the shadows that I am exploring in these days of walking into darkness. Every shadow that I cling to has its purpose, its protection, and some I must release into the light when light returns, but others protect vulnerable and tender selves, make it possible for parts of me to move and flow in social circles. I’ll shine my little light on these protective shadow-masks here in the labyrinth, but keep them in place, and be glad of the people who know even these little parts of who I am.

Some of our masks keep us from being seen, being known. The protection becomes solid armor and the shadow takes on tangibility, beyond their need to protect, instead keeping people away, keeping people from knowing who we are. I have students who are wrapped up in their protective shadows with such care that they appear almost invisible.

The gentle work of tending to these quiet souls needs not a harsh and blinding light, but the golden glow of the little candles we’ve been nursing in this walk through the labyrinth. Let’s be a safe and nurturing circle, where we can look someone in the eyes and say with words or glance: “I See You.”


Gratitude List:
1. Being Seen
2. Something is lifting. Today, I feel the little animal of my spirit is lifting its nose and sensing the coming Sunreturn. Instead of two more days of walking into darkness, I feel two more days until Sunreturn, and that feels like a big inner shift for me.
3. Foxes. Yesterday I read the page on foxes to my students from my advent book, All Creation Waits. (If you are reading it too, I am a few days ahead, because I want to read them the Christmas reading on Friday.) And this morning, I was sifting through a deck of inspirational cards I keep near me, and today’s character, synchronously, is the fox. All the senses tuned. Ears cocked. The mystery of inner knowing.
4. Chocolate. Yesterday, I sort-of-but-maybe-not-quite accidentally listened to the hearing on the radio. After only a little while, I was in desperate need of chocolate, and my beloved obliged.
5. Anticipation

May we walk in Beauty!

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