This week I had the opportunity to join Lori Walsh on her South Dakota Public Broadcasting Radio show “In the Moment.” The topic broadly was the Future of Faith; the conversation turned out to be about a childhood memory, VantagePoint3 and the deepening of God’s people, a mentoring way in “a culture of do and tell”, and the deeply human need to be seen.
I have included THE LINK TO THE INTERVIEW HERE if you want to listen to it (15-16 minutes).
Over a decade ago, Lori took The Journey with a group of folks. It is gratifying to have been a small part of her story and the impact she is making in this neck of the woods and beyond. Both through my listening to her show and in my personal experience she consistently sets the table so well for folks to bump into the things that matter most to them.
Saul Bellow coined the term “first class noticers” in his novel Ravelstein. Lori is one of those first class noticers. On Wednesday, our “In the Moment” conversation together reminded me yet again of how important noticing others is to becoming fully human and holy people.
We all have such a tremendous need to be seen. And we are not talking here about a need for more trophy ceremonies. We are talking about a deeply human need to be known and noticed by someone. We express this need in a variety of ways at every place along the journey. A five-year old girl on her birthday proudly looks across the table at her uncle and so unapologetically searches for all his attention to be on her—look at me, notice me, ask me questions, this is my day, see me; or a 61-year-old dad, who only three weeks earlier suffered a massive heart attack, lingers in the kitchen after a meal, yearning for his family to ask him questions, draw him out, and notice his profound uncertainty, loneliness, and disorientation. No matter what stage of life we find ourselves in, we have a tremendous need to be seen.
This seems to be something Jesus recognized clearly in his ministry. Everywhere he went he noticed people in profound ways. A woman who had been bleeding for 12 years who found her way to the center of the crowd around Jesus, and was able to touch Jesus and be healed. But the story doesn’t end there. Jesus then asked this absurd question, “Who touched me?” One can almost hear the disciples chuckling to themselves as the crowd pressed in around Jesus. But he pressed on with the question and the healed woman reluctantly came forward and “told him the whole truth” and he saw her and blessed her —“Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease” (Mark 5:24–34).
Or consider that day in Jericho when Jesus picked the most unlikely character out of the crowd—“Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today” (Luke 19:1–9). Zacchaeus’ highest hope was to get a glimpse of this great rabbi and healer, who was criticized for “being a friend of tax collectors.” Jesus knew that this friendless tax collector needed far more than a glimpse, he needed to be seen and noticed. Jesus recognized Zacchaeus in a profoundly transforming way.
Life can be so isolating and lonely nowadays. Recognizing another person is a powerful gift. When we have been noticed—picked out of the crowd like Zacchaeus—we begin to become people who graciously uncover the hidden dreams or painful wounds of others, becoming for them agents of healing and empowerment. One doesn’t need a degree to do this; one simply needs courage, some character, and the capacity to ask good questions and listen patiently.
In this peculiar time and place in history, when it is so common to be treated impersonally, we followers of Jesus must not underestimate the power of being noticed and seen by another. May we all hear the Spirit’s invitation to become such “first class noticers” wherever are placed... whether it be around a kitchen table or in a classroom or a business office or local church or a radio station.
If we want to learn about the formation of a person’s life, a helpful question to pose is “Who recognized you?” or “Who saw you?” As human beings, we all have a need to be “seen.” This is important—in differing ways—at every place in the life span.
Sharon Daloz Parks
For Further Reflection:
- A Mentoring Guide: Christ. Conversation. Companionship. (VantagePoint3, 2019)
- Deep Mentoring: Guiding Others on Their Leadership Journey by Randy D Reese and Robert Loane (IVP, 2012)