When others look at us, I wonder what they see. Or, to put it another way, when others look at us, I wonder what we let them see. In this age of social media especially, it can be very easy to create a persona – whether through the words we write or the filters we use – one that perhaps is more about ‘fitting in’ than it is about actually genuinely being ourselves.
But, we can’t think of how others see us without also thinking about how we see ourselves. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to suggest that how we choose to present ourselves to the outside world is often linked to the way we look at ourselves and consequently, the version of ourselves we show the world is probably a result of that self- image.
In this age where comparison can happen without us even meaning it to, we can magnify our insecurities as we try to meet a standard that we decide we should set ourselves – even if that is a standard that was never meant for us.
We can control how people see us, to a certain extent, because people can’t read our minds – in a way, they know what we tell them or what they see of us. But, when it comes to how we see ourselves, we know exactly what we think and feel. And, I wonder how we genuinely feel about ourselves, deep down.
There are probably vey few of us who have an image of ourselves that we are completely content with. While we may have times when we think we’re completely right, I reckon it’s more likely that if we were asked to list things we liked or disliked about ourselves, the dislike list would probably be much longer.
It can be very easy to loom around and compare ourselves to others, thinking they’re better than we are, or, we can convince ourselves that everyone’s else has life better sussed than we do and I see much happier with everything about themselves than we are, especially in this age of social media where it’s much easier to create particular images of ourselves.
But, the truth is, we’re all imperfect beings. None of us has it all sussed – no matter what we might say. And, some of the most dangerous things we can do are to focus on what others say about themselves or, maybe worse, wait for someone to tell us what we ‘need’ to hear to make us feel good about ourselves.
Because we are all imperfect, none of us can ever completely meet each others’ needs. We all let each other down or disappoint at some time. But, in addition to how others see us and how we see ourselves, we need to ask, when God looks at me, what does He see?
We are beings with a physical body and a soul. Our soul is about what’s on the inside: our thoughts, our feelings, our hearts, our desires and our dreams.
No matter what image we like to project for others, or what we want them to believe about us, only God knows what is actually in our deepest thoughts and so, that means He knows us, not only at our kindest and best, but also at our worst. Yet, John 3 verse 16 tells us: ‘For God so loved the world, that He gave His only – begotten Son, that whoever believed in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.’
In spite of all our sins and failings, God sent Jesus to the cross to take our punishment. So, if God was willing to let His Son die for us, when God looks a thing you and me, what does He see?
Well, firstly, when God looks at you and me, He sees part of His creation. Genesis 1 verse 31a, tells us that God looked at all that He had made, including people. And? He saw that it was ‘very good’. He knew we would sin, but He looks at us through the eyes of love. He knows we’re far from perfectly but the power of His amazing grace means that He sees beyond all the things we don’t even want to know about ourselves and He wants to carry out a work in us, one that Philippians reminds us, He won’t give up on.
Secondly, when God looks at you and me, He sees a work in progress with great potential. Ephesians 2 verse 1 says, ‘You are God’s masterpiece.’ At the minute, we need a lot of restoration, we’re far from perfect, but He has grace to meet our weaknesses and He’ll never give up on us if we let Him work in us. Like a talented artist, He sees the potential in us to be His masterpiece, in time.
Thirdly and finally, when God looks at you and me, He sees one who is loved. As John 3 verse 16 reminded us, it was His love for us that sent Jesus to the cross. It is His love for us that provides for us and sees that our needs are met and, it is in love that He sends us into the world to make a difference.
God wants to transform us to be more and more like Him and that means covering ourselves – almost as we would put on our clothes – as Colossians 3 verse 14 says, with love. As we do that, the way we look at others and the way others see us will be radically changed. The Bible tells us that ‘God is love’ and as we seek to become more and more like Him, everything we do should mirror that love.
Rather than focusing on how others see us or even how we see ourselves, let’s focus on how God sees us, in His gracious, forgiving love, and let’s use that to help me a difference in the world around us. 1st Corinthians 16 verse 14 instructs us clearly, ‘Let all that you do be done in love.’
What a different place this world would be if we started to see ourselves and others, not through eyes of judgement or hate, but through the gracious and forgiving eyes if God’s unfailing love.