what i need to see - turning thirty-eight, part one

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As I drove my mom-in-law home from an eye doctor appointment in the city, her still-dilated pupils were magnifying the twinkle of both the Christmas décor and the hundreds of lit office windows in the financial district. She was marveling at the sight and if I didn’t hate driving downtown at night so much, I’d have broken my focus for a peek. The view zoomed out once we merged onto the highway and she said, if only you could see what I see. If only.

With my 38th birthday fast approaching, and the threshold to the magic four-zero not far behind, I’ve been thinking a lot about the person I want to continue growing into. (Because I’d like to think that I’ve at least started maturing into something more than my younger, quite foolish self. Please, Jesus, please tell me I have.) And those eight words have become the name of what I’ve been striving for.

I underwent a minor medical procedure at the beginning of the year, my first experience in an operating room. The moment before the anesthetic knocked me out felt holy (Not high, holy. I swear.). I intentionally inspected each wall, studied the shape and beam of each blaring lamp, examined the tray of tools, and looked into the eyes of all three members of the medical staff sharing this space with me. And in those minutes I stepped into the world of family members, friends and strangers who are staring fear, an altered quality of life, and maybe even death, in the face.

For just a blink, I saw what you saw.

In an effort to pay forward God’s mercy with my feeble, mortal abilities, I need to keep doing just that. When we talk, I need to listen to your words but also see your heart between each one.

Are you overwhelmed? Is something exciting in the works? Are you heartbroken? Are you in an amazing place in your life right now? Are you suffering?

I want to pay attention enough that I hear first, the answers that may never actually be verbalized, and then the whispers of the Holy Spirit, counseling me on my assigned response. To be a sounding board, to help you, to empathize, to stop judging you. And the first step in developing this skill is to consider that last one non-negotiable. If I can't replace my fleshly filter of judgement with one of compassion, then I'm breaking the deal and I'm just a noisy gong.

As I blow my candles out next week, this is my wish: that you will never feel unseen by me.

And so my work begins.