The 3 BIG questions all of us are asking all the time: Do you see me? Do you hear me? Do you want me?
This is the subtext of our entire life. Kids are asking their parents, siblings, teachers, classmates, etc. Husbands are asking their wives. Wives are asking their husbands. People are asking their friends. We even ask our pets these three questions.
We try to convince ourselves that we mature and evolve past this trinity of vulnerability, but we don’t. Have you ever been slandered, betrayed, or unfairly written-off by an adult? That’s because that “adult” is scared of how vulnerable and needy they feel; they hate themselves for being so weak, and so they redirect their self-loathing toward someone else. The only perfectly secure human being to have ever existed, never slandered or unfairly dismissed anyone. And in the face of those who slandered Him, He begged that they might be pardoned. We are shrill, judgmental, rude, and condescending because we are insecure. We are ashamed of how desperately we yearn to be seen, heard, and wanted. This is actually a very helpful insight to bear in mind when striving to grieve for, and forgive, your enemies (i.e. see them for the frightened little creatures they really are …Romans 12:14 applies even to those who live like mosquitoes).
I’ve got “bad news” …the route to real stability and strength is through weakness. In fact, weakness is not just the path, it’s also the vehicle. In fact, it’s not just the path and the vehicle, it’s also an inescapable dimension of our destination’s atmosphere (i.e. in heaven you still won’t be God). Here’s the deal, God’s power is perfected in weakness. That is the simple truth, but that truth is by no means simplistic. This fact of life is convoluted and constantly confusing to us because we are staunchly committed to (a) transcending our neediness, and (b) rising above weakness via a tower of tangible approval and acclaim.
There are two prominent stories in The Book of Beginnings that reveal our commitment to transcending our neediness, and striving to rise above our weakness via a tower of tangible approval (the story of Adam attempting to be God [Genesis 3], and the story of humanity building their “Never-Be-Needy Tower of ‘Greatness’ ” [Genesis 11]). These core corruptions/commitments flavor the entire human experience. There is an incessant, and compulsive, urge to try for transcendence, and aspire for tangible approval.
If we expect to navigate the treacherous terrain of our bent hearts, and if we dare to venture into the vulnerable world of God’s power perfected in our weakness then we must brace ourselves for the risky and rigorous work of imaginatively inhabiting the Word of God. It is all too easy to glean basic information from the Bible, perhaps reading God’s Word our entire lives, without ever imaginatively inhabiting the narratives God has been pleased to provide for us. This is like reducing food to a boring, biologically basic, necessity and nothing more; no culinary artistry, no savoring of flavors and smells and textures, no appreciation of the story told through the sequence of courses or pairings. Let us disdain and denounce such a simplistic and conservative approach to Bible reading and life living.
[Read this next sentence in the Jim Gaffigan high-pitch voice of disapproval] “What on earth is Tyler rambling on about? How does this have anything to do with people wanting to be seen, heard, and wanted?”
Let’s imaginatively inhabit the life of Leah (Jacob’s first wife). If you visit the last few lines of Genesis 29 you’ll find a woman who feels completely unseen, unheard, and unwanted. It would not be a stretch to say that Leah lives her entire life feeling perpetually hated. She’s never been wanted. Since the day of her birth, she has been deemed “ugly,” and while her father has endured her as a daughter he has never enjoyed her. No one ever even entertained the idea of wanting her. The only reason she now wears the status of “a married woman” is because on the night of her sister’s wedding, her father smuggled her into the tent of consummation; and her unsuspecting, merry-hearted, brother ‘n law didn’t realize it wasn’t Rachel. The only plausible scheme to be seen, heard, and wanted is child-bearing. But of course Leah cannot conjure or control the fertility of her womb (stories of infertility haunt her …Jacob’s mother and grandmother being two prominent examples; and then there is the obvious fear that infertility runs in the family – she suspects that Rachel has struggled to get pregnant, for Jacob spends most nights with her sister, and no kids have come yet). God intervenes, and a child is miraculously knit together in Leah’s womb! Leah’s first reaction is not to aim mesmerized-attentiveness to The Maker, but rather to use this child as a means of being seen by her husband. It doesn’t work. Another child, and again the choice is made to bypass becoming obsessed with the Almighty in favor of attempting to get noticed in the eyes of Jacob. Strike two. A third child. Yet another opportunity to revel in the reality that she is seen, heard, and wanted by God, and yet again Leah chooses to gamble this child on her husbands affections. Three children (three sons no less). Three attempts to be seen, heard, and wanted by the husband who never chose her. Three flagrant failures.
A fourth child is knit together in Leah’s womb. Leah’s fourth, and for now, reaction is, “This time I will praise the Lord.” And then Leah ceased bearing children. Chapter 30 reveals that Leah is not done with her futile work of attempting to win the affections of her husband, but for now she surrenders to the fact that she is weak. Her anxiety and toil have given her ample evidence of her weakness. The life-long absence of natural beauty is a constant reminder. And the basic, inescapable, fact that she is simply not in control forces her to the conclusion that she is weak. And yet, The Maker Himself not only finds Leah’s weakness endurable, but He downright ENJOYS her and perfects is power in her weakness! He Himself is overflowing with an affectionate passion for Leah, and He yearns for ‘weak-ugly-old-Leah’ on levels infinite and incomprehensible. It is too easy (and probably dishonest) to say, “God sees, hears, and wants me; and so I simply receive and rest in that reality.” The fact is we are just like Leah. If we ever arrive at authentic acceptance of God’s love, it is probably because we have tried vigorously to transcend our neediness, and we have exerted an insane amount of energy attempting to build a tower of tangible approval; and this has left us feeling exhausted and ready to surrender to the love of God. In other words, God’s powerful love is only actually received and relished when we come to terms with our weakness.