Have you ever dreaded a holiday? For years, I dreaded Valentine’s Day. February 14 shouted, You’re all alone; your husband left you. It wasn’t about candy or flowers; I wanted someone to notice me; to see the real me and not reject me. My constant prayer was to find a man who’d love me and my children.
Hagar would understand how I felt, I thought as I studied Genesis 16. Sarah forced Hagar, her servant, to sleep with Abraham, but when Hagar became pregnant, Sarah rejected her and cast her out. Neither Abraham or Sarah really saw Hagar, but God did. He appeared in her moment of crisis and encouraged her. Hagar replied to God, “You are a God of seeing.”
In my days of single parenting and working two jobs, I spent a lot of after-work hours in my friend Barbara’s home. Its warmth and bustle was a brief escape from my stress and strain. My son Ben played with Barbara’s boys and my daughter, Dawn, at three, who still didn’t speak, flapped her hands as she stared into a mirror.
One day after a meal with Barbara’s family, I washed and dried dishes with Ralph, Barbara’s dad who was visiting from Ohio. He was a striking man— tall, handsome, and fit, with a thick shock of white hair.
As we stood at the sink, I explained my concern about Dawn and her recent frequent episodes. I didn’t know what else to call them. She’d freeze in place, stop her regular breathing and slump over. Her lips and skin became grayish blue and drool would run down her mouth. Then she’d drop to the floor and fall asleep. Our pediatrician answered my worries with nonchalance. “Don’t worry, she’s probably holding her breath like some kids do at that age.” I was frustrated. I groped for answers. Clearly, I’d need to look elsewhere for help. My conversation with Ralph paused. Then he piped up, looking sad. “Hearing the passion and love in your voice, I can’t imagine how she could be so uncaring.” His words were few but I felt seen and encouraged.
During the months of Ralph’s visit we became close friends. He’d been widowed at the same time I was divorced. We each needed a companion. We chatted, laughed and once we went on a “date” (as he called it) to a movie.
When Valentine’s Day rolled around that year, the kids in my kindergarten class squealed and hopped around, energized by excessive sugar during our party. They were anxious to open tiny cards from their friends, and I smiled as I watched them. But, finally, school ended for the day. I picked my two kids up and started the long drive to our little brick rental house in a nearby town.
I didn’t relish the thought of being alone (man- wise) the rest of the day. Driving into the carport, I noticed something on the stoop. A pretty flowering plant in shiny pink and red cellophane. I couldn’t believe it! Then…a card from Ralph. A big grin stretched across my face. I was seen! Someone cared. What a boost it was for my day.
Concerning my daughter Dawn, many phone calls and doctor visits later, I heard the news I’d dreaded. She was severely mentally delayed. The years ahead would be daunting but at least my suspicions were confirmed.
God gave me just the special friend I needed for a certain season of my life. I like to think I was a good friend to him as well. We stayed in touch by letters and occasional phone calls. He was thrilled when I met someone who also saw me and liked me for who I was. When he found a wife I celebrated long distance with him. We stayed in touch until his death.
Ralph saw me, but not with his physical eyes. He’d been completely blind since his forties. He saw me with the eyes of his heart. Because of him, I began to see others that way, too. Years after he delivered the Valentine to my porch, I held a fancy Valentine dinner party for divorced and widowed women in our spacious home. I cried when I prayed for them. I had an idea how they felt and how much they needed to be seen.
I knew God saw me. He was with me all the time. Without Him I wouldn’t have survived my hardships. It’s also crucial to be seen and known by humans. God created us to be part of a larger group of people– the Body of Christ. It’s there that, as we learn to know God, we also learn to know and truly love others.