A couple of weeks ago I stepped into a church restroom, my eyes red from crying.
Freshly returned from the Middle East, I had just finished sharing with the congregation about my time overseas. I kept it together for my ten-minute talk but as I made my way back to my seat, the proverbial tap turned on. It soon became evident that my little packet of pocket tissues was not sufficient to mop up the tears streaking down my cheeks.
The truth is some stories cannot be shared from the church platform or in a newsletter. These stories are not trivial or unimportant, but they may not be safe to share. Sometimes when our tears are not acknowledged and our griefs are unseen, we may feel that our deepest longings are insignificant to our community and even to God.
With a handful of wet tissues, I walked into the restroom just as the sermon was beginning. I was not expecting to see anyone but at the sink stood another woman washing her hands. There is no hiding when you walk into a restroom with red, puffy eyes. This stranger read the situation immediately and at once turned towards me to give me a hug. She offered to make me a cup of tea which I gratefully accepted and when she left the restroom, I allowed myself to sob quietly. There is something beautiful and praiseworthy about an unexpected act of grace, a measure of kindness that we did not expect.
I often take a book with me when I go for a run. Whether I am ducking branches on a trail run or pounding the treadmill, I enjoy listening to audiobooks through my headphones. Let’s face it – any distraction is helpful when I am struggling to get up a hill. Recently I listened to The Soul of Desire by Christian psychiatrist Curt Thompson. The premise of his book is that we all have a heart need: the universal desire to be “seen, soothed, safe and secure.” Most of us are not looking for lights and a stage but the significance of having our griefs seen, our tears noticed, and our honour restored.
From my Bible reading this morning, I read Mary’s song in Luke chapter 1:46-56. It struck me that whilst many know it as The Magnificat (Latin: to magnify), perhaps it could be renamed as The Song of the Unseen. What makes someone or something unseen? Mary has a clear grasp of this; the unseen are those people who are humble and don’t occupy the place of power, rule or wealth. They will not stop traffic or cause people to erupt in applause. They are not invited to write an endorsement for a new book or be the guest on a podcast. No books will be written about them and their wisdom will not be remembered beyond their life’s span.
So, it is God’s strange providence that he chose to display his “covenant of love to a thousand generations” through an ordinary teenager from Nazareth (Deuteronomy 7:9). That he would choose to bring honour to someone so ordinary leaves Mary in disbelief. She cannot fathom that God has seen her; that she has been noticed by the Lord of the universe. Out of a sense of awe, Mary penned The Song of the Unseen – amazed that her God sees the poor, the humble and the insignificant. The Mighty One honours and restores those who are overlooked and gives them a place of prominence, honour and significance. Her heart is filled with praise that he has his eyes on the humble and that generations to come might remember her. And of course, the lyrics to Mary’s song are true.
I sometimes wonder how much I miss of God’s hand at work in my everyday life. Maybe like me, you cannot envisage how God might transform a person or use an event for his and their good purposes. Had we lived on the same street as Mary, we might not have thought much of this teenage girl. There is an irony here; perhaps though we long to be seen, we also overlook the work that God is doing around us through other people.
In our lives, there will be conversations that only a few may be party to and tears that may only have an audience of One. Yet the Mighty One sees, knows and assigns significance to the very things that others may deem as insignificant. It is a comfort to know that in his mercy, God transforms our easily forgotten and seemingly unimportant experiences into signposts of his presence and power in our lives.
What has happened for you this week that might remind you of how God sees all the details of your life?