“For I have seen your face, which is like seeing the face of God.” Genesis 33:10
While the digital age connects us like never before, there is no substitute for face-to-face interaction. No email or Facebook message can ever compete with the joy of seeing someone's face light up when you enter the room. My grandparents' home was always an oasis for me for that very reason. When I'd arrive, both of them wouldn't just say they were glad I'd come; it was written all over their faces. No matter how much uncertainty, disappointment, or worry I was experiencing, one look at the two of them reminded me that I was accepted just as I was.
“For I have seen your face, which is like seeing the face of God, and you have accepted me.” A man named Jacob spoke these words to his brother, Esau. You might think that a huge compliment like that was born out of a beautiful, loving family relationship. Nothing could be further from the truth. Jacob and Esau were twins who had been rivals even in the womb. Their childhood was marked by favoritism, competition, and deceit. The final straw: Jacob wanted Esau's birthright and inheritance, so he deceived his blind father into thinking he was his brother, and stole it. It made Esau so mad that Jacob had to flee for his life.
Decades had passed, and Jacob was returning home. He had no idea how Esau would receive him. He knew he deserved an angry and bitter reception. But Esau surprised his brother, and showed grace. He accepted his brother with open arms. He offered undeserved favor and unconditional acceptance. He proved that the bond of family was stronger than sin. That's what caused Jacob to say, “I have seen your face, which is like seeing the face of God.”
God gazes at us in that same way, only with greater purity, love and delight. Because we have been adopted as God's daughters, His divine blood runs through our veins and proves stronger than any sin. “But now in Christ Jesus you who were once far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ,” (Ephesians 2:13). “And because you are [daughters], God has sent the Spirit of his Son into [your] hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!' So you are no longer a slave, but a [daughter], and if a [daughter], then an [heiress] through God,” (Galatians 4:6-7). Because we are family, we receive unmerited grace and are accepted just as we are. Soak up that truth. When God looks at you, He says, “Hello, beautiful.” He adores you. He delights in you.
And what does He want us to do with all that grace that He's poured over us? He tells us in Ephesians 5:1-2, “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love.”
If we're going to imitate Him, then we have to ask ourselves the question: What do our faces communicate to those we encounter? Do people leave our presence feeling like they've seen the face of God?
Or do our faces tell people that they don't matter much, because we are SO BUSY with incredibly important things like checking out the status updates of some old acquaintance?
Do our faces tell people that they aren't accepted, because their behavior doesn't match our opinion of “the right way to do things”?
If it's true that 93% of all communication is nonverbal, we'd better pay attention to what our faces look like.
Of course, this all would be easier to do if people would just act the way we want them to. But unfortunately, some people can be pretty annoying. Often those we love most can aggravate us to distraction.
So here's the good news. You've got some serious mojo to draw on when you feel like you just don't have it in you to reflect the face of God. Remember what you just read in Galatians 4:6. It says that if you're a daughter, then you're an heiress. You've inherited wonderful things (you can read about some of them in Ephesians 1:3-14). One of the things you inherited is the fruit of the Spirit. Galatians 5:22 says that we've got the following things at our disposal: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. That's the mojo I'm talking about. Mojo is the power to control natural forces through supernatural means. It means that God can supernaturally help us to control our natural reactions of disdain, cynicism, criticism, anger, disappointment and disinterest.
Your inheritance is there for the asking. So no long faces as we continue through Lent. Let's show the world what an amazing God we worship and reflect HIS FACE to everyone we meet! Now that's a great way to celebrate His resurrection!
*This post first appeared on the WWP website in April 2014.
The song “Shallow” from the A Star Is Born movie has been in my head for three weeks. If you don't believe me, ask my family. I am driving them crazy.
When I told my friend I hadn't seen the movie, her response was absolute horror. You would have thought I told her that I was leaving the Catholic Church. Or growing out my facial hair. After the Academy Awards, she kept at me, “You have to see how they performed the song! Bradley rested his head on her shoulder while they sang! They looked so in love!” I had to see what she was so taken by. And so I googled, “Academy Awards Shallow Song.”
And now, a moment of silence...because, Oh. My. Word.
When it is time for me to go home to the Lord, if His gaze on me is anything like the way Bradley Cooper looks at Lady Gaga, then take me home now, sweet Jesus! Let's just say I am a little bit obsessed with this movie, or to be more specific, with this on-screen connection. Full disclosure, I could have done without the language, but that aside, this story touched me deeply. I felt like I was right there with Gaga and Cooper, sitting in the parking lot, listening in on a personal conversation. And when the movie ended, I missed their relationship - as co-dependent and tragic as it was - because deep down, I ached for a similar connection of my own.
Who doesn't yearn for deep connection?
I watched an interview with Lady Gaga. She said she originally wrote the song as a solo, but when Cooper heard it, in a stroke of brilliance, he added his voice. “It is a conversation about a man and woman and he actually listens to her,” she said. “Women today want to be heard.”
My husband and I can be pretty poor listeners, because we both work from home, and one of us always seems to have a phone in-hand, and by one of us, I mean my husband. I find I have to repeat what I say because after I wait for his reply, he looks up blankly and apologetically says, “I am sorry. Can you say that again? I wasn't listening.” And sure. I can easily throw him under the bus, but how often do I do the same exact thing? How many times has one of my children carried on with a story that I am half-interested in, only to give a, “that's great!” when I notice they have stopped talking. Or what about that woman you run into at the grocery store who stops to talk and all you can think about is the laundry at home and the appointment you have to get to and how badly you wish she picked up on social cues and closed her mouth? Listening takes time and well, our time is valuable. We don't like to waste it on things like...people.
And if that last line sounds bad, that's because it is.
Let's just admit it. We are losing our listening skills and our relationships are suffering as a result. We want to be heard, but rarely do we have the patience to listen. It is something I am working on this Lent. Looking people in the eye and listening to what they have to say without forming an escape route, or planning in my head what I will say back while they are still speaking.
And we wonder why so many of our relationships feel disconnected.
Or maybe we don't. Some people think we are connected just fine and there is no problem. After all, with technology today, we are communicating with people at an unprecedented rate. But connection beyond screens is different and not just different but vital. In Opening Your Heart, author Lisa Brenninkmeyer writes,
The truth is, we are growing increasingly socially isolated while online social networks are exploding. We are seeking connection, but so many of our connections aren't satisfying. Too many of our relationships feel superficial, artificial, one step removed from the real thing. This isolation can be soul deadening.1
Why are we so in love with the song “Shallow?” Because in this performance we see everything we long for -- deep connection, face-to-face communion; someone who gazes back at us, hears what we are saying, and offers us a safe place to land. Two people who so beautifully identify and call out what the other yearns for and the exhaustion that comes from filling the void with superficial things. And sure, doesn't hurt that Bradley Cooper is just so darn easy on the eyes, and Lady Gaga's vocal talent is flat out off the charts insane. But don't be fooled into thinking that's all there is on the big screen that tugs at the heart. The hook is not the talent, it is the intimacy they invite us into; the power of deep connection, the moment when you realize that you are not invisible, your voice is heard, and you are finally seen for who you are.
You know, the shallow end of a pool is just three feet deep. How many of us are swimming in the shallow when it comes to our relationships? With our spouses? Our children? Our neighbors? Our friends? Our Church? Our God? How many of us can sing, “I'm off the deep end, watch as I dive in, I'll never meet the ground…?” This Lent, I invite you into the deep end of faith. How? Run to Adoration, grab someone's hand and bring them to Mass, sit across from a friend who simply needs her voice to be heard, really listen to the women at your table in Bible study instead of needing to be the one who is constantly speaking. Put your phone down and look into the eyes of the person you are sharing a room with. Because that intimacy we ache for in a Hollywood story...it is available to us, right here, right now. Truth is, we were made for more than the shallow.
Your Heavenly Father is waiting in the deep end...it is time to dive in.
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