Mentoring and discipleship is something I’m deeply passionate about because through these intentional relationships, we have an opportunity to image God in seeing others. Having lost my dad at the age of three, being seen is a topic close to my heart. There was something in that loss, in the additional responsibilities my mom had to take on as a newly widowed mother of three, in being distanced from extended family and in feeling different from those around me that led to my feeling unseen—and in being unseen, feeling unknown and insecure in my value. God has most certainly used these circumstances for good, but it has taken many years, much time in God’s Word and the Holy Spirit’s continued work in my life to learn to see my value in his eyes and to stand firm in my God-given identity.
God has frequently used other people through mentoring and discipleship relationships to powerfully communicate that he sees and loves me.
In this article, I’d like to consider some examples from the Bible and from my own life of God’s seeing, prompt personal reflection and discuss a few practical ideas for being an agent of God in seeing others.
Throughout Scripture we encounter the phrase “God saw.” In seeing, he demonstrates how he values people and has compassion on them. He draws near. He rights wrongs. He acts for our good and for his glory. In Genesis 1, when God saw what he had made in creation, including his culminating work of humankind, he proclaimed it good and very good. Because we have been created in the image of God, we have value, and when we see others through God’s eyes, we are conveying their God-given value.
I have a vivid memory of standing in front of a mirror above the pedestal sink in our small bathroom when I was maybe nine or ten, wondering whether I would ever be loved, seen or known. I know now without a shadow of a doubt God saw me in that moment. He valued me. He had compassion on me and he acted. One of the ways he did this was through a small Baptist church in my hometown, through a friend who invited me to attend Girls in Action (GAs) and through a GA leader, Mrs. Younts, whose smile, twinkling eyes and booming voice belted out the Christian youth songs of the day that told of God’s love and pointed to the truth of the gospel before I even knew what it was or that I needed it. “I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart.” Anyone?
One of the most recognized verses on God seeing is the story of Hagar in the Old Testament (Genesis 16:13). After being mistreated by her mistress, Sarai, Hagar flees to the desert. God sees her desperate situation, and he compassionately reveals himself to her as the God who sees. He gives her a command and a promise concerning her son, Ishmael. In response, Hagar calls God ‘El Roi’—“the God who sees me.” Hagar’s value is restored and her hope renewed through this encounter with God. Exodus 2:25 says that God saw the Israelites in their oppression and slavery, and he came to their rescue through the deliverer Moses. God prepared them through their time in the wilderness to know his character and taught them to live in relationship with him. I could recount countless stories of God seeing throughout the Old and New Testaments: Jesus seeing the woman at the well, his encounter with the woman caught in adultery, calling to Zacchaeus in the sycamore tree, his compassion for the hungry and hurting crowds and so many more instances.
God saw me in those years I went my own desperate way, hoping to find life in friendship, fun and popularity. He saw me when, around the age of 13, I finally walked the aisle of that little Baptist church to give my life to Christ. He used a faithful youth leader to teach me the Word of God and committed to meet weekly to disciple me in the foundations of the faith. I could recount other stories of God seeing me over the years—when I let relationships, education and career take precedence over my relationship with him, when I doubted if I could have a vibrant faith again or be used by him and when I longed for godly friends and mentors. I look back and am thankful for God’s steadfast love through times of wandering. I’m thankful for the Christian brothers and sisters who God has used in my life to encourage my walk and help me stand firm in his truth. How has the Lord seen you—when you were younger, through the years, most recently? How has that impacted your life?
God’s seeing me has led me as an agent of his love to want to see others. In the past few years that desire has translated into leading SHINE groups, small groups of women in community who share their lives centered around God’s Word. Most recently, it’s led me to engage in mentoring initiatives in my church to encourage and equip mentors and to connect women in one-on-one relationships. But I’ve tried to be attentive to seeing in smaller ways too—through prayer, encouraging, listening and inviting. There are so many practical ways we can see the women God has placed in our path—through engaging in programs at our church that focus on mentoring and discipleship, but also through a myriad of small ways throughout our day. Who can you message today to let them know you are thinking about and praying for them? Who can you sit beside in church this week, showing interest in and listening to their life story? Who can you invite to coffee, or Bible Study, or a women’s ministry event this semester? Who can you say yes to mentor, disciple and intentionally invest in this coming year?
Pray for eyes to see, to value, to show compassion and to act in the power of the Spirit. So many people around us today need to feel seen, so they too can proclaim along with all God’s people, “You are the God who sees me” (Genesis 16:13). Let’s reach out as God’s representatives and demonstrate God’s compassion so that others might find a firm foundation in him as well. I’d love to hear practical examples of how you’ve felt seen and how you are seeing and coming alongside those around you. Visit our SBTC women’s ministry Facebook group and share: https://www.facebook.com/groups/sbtexaswomen.