1 a : a result of perceiving : observation
Three seemingly small and insignificant things happened yesterday at church: someone stopped me in the hall to say she's been enjoying my blog, another told my husband they appreciate my "calm presence" and when I complimented a friend on her cute outfit, she told me I inspired her to wear it. Each of these things could have easily gone unnoticed. But they didn't. Why? I think because I was listening with my heart as well as my ears.
Do you do this? Ear listening is the kind where I hear what the person is saying, respond and walk away, never to think of it again. Heart listening is like an echo of the conversation that replays in my mind. It's sort of like a quiet voice whispering, "Did you hear that? She reads your blog." If I let it, the echo shows me what's important. There's a reason I needed to hear each of these things - and not just hear them, but hear them with my heart.
The message for me in each of these interactions is that I am being seen and that my offerings have value. I have a love/hate relationship with being seen. Since you can't truly be known without being seen, I value authenticity and having someone "get me." I also fear being seen because one of the lessons I learned in childhood is that being seen can bring pain and shame. I'm not sure whether this paradox of wanting to be seen and wanting to blend in is one I will have to live with for the rest of my life, but I do think God is calling my attention to it and trying to gently show me that people DO see me, whether I know it, like it or fear it. In fact, I think that's what this whole year of radiance has been about.
For the last three years, I've asked God for a word for the year. In the late fall, I start praying and asking God what my word for the next year should be. 2010 was change, 2011 was unfurl, 2012 is radiant. Radiant has been the hardest word for me. Change I was able to embrace, because God had really been preparing my heart for that one for a long time. Unfurl was also a bit scary - the idea of letting the real me fly about in the breeze was unsettling. But radiant? Yikes. What am I to do with that? Apparently, it's not something for me to do. Because while the first two words are verbs, radiant is an adjective. I don't think it's something I'm supposed to do (it's not radiATE), it's something I am. That scares me more than just a little. But when I can set aside my fear and listen and observe, I see God trying to gently remind me who I am.
I chose the word "perception" for this post because I was thinking about how each of these three women at church helped me change my perception of myself. But the definition made me realize a whole other side to this: that my job is to watch for God - to look for him at work, to listen to the echoes in my heart, to observe and perceive. Not to make myself radiant, but to see who I already am.
As you read this, I don't know whether to encourage you to help others see who they are or encourage you to cultivate heart listening. I doubt the interactions yesterday felt important to the people who offered me these gifts - it was the receiving that made them gifts. But we never know what our words will do in someone's heart, so we should choose them wisely. And if we are listening with our hearts as well as our ears, perhaps we'll offer words that God can use as gifts. I want to offer my ordinary life and self to God and have his perception change them into extraordinary things.