Those were the words recently spoken by a ministry couple as they hugged my husband and me after a weeklong Standing Stone retreat.
A week before the retreat I was busy making lists. Lists of menus. Lists of groceries to purchase. Lists of activities. Lists of lists. I was engrossed in the process of the care and feeding of this ministry couple. All food preferences were duly noted as I made plans to show love and appreciation by “hosting them with excellence”. I knew that they would arrive exhausted and I wanted each day of the week to be a pleasure and a joy. Cooking, my specialty, was one way I knew would bless them. I had stacks of recipes I was considering.
Yet, two days before the retreat, in the midst of the frenzy of preparations, the Holy Spirit reminded me of the real purpose of the upcoming retreat. The care and feeding of the spirit is more important than the care and feeding of the body. He gently reminded me that I was too preoccupied with the physical preparations and had neglected the spiritual preparations.
Guilty as charged!
As I sat in my kitchen pondering, I became aware of the noises from the living room. My husband was watching two programs on television, switching back and forth during commercials (an annoying habit, but probably related to the XY chromosome thing). One of the shows caught my attention. Avatar. Not the cartoon, but the blue guys with long braids who romp around in a fantasy rainforest. The line that caught me was, “I see you.” That stopped me in my tracks. In the movie, “I see you”, is the equivalent of “I love you”, but even deeper than that. It means I see YOU. Past surface stuff, down deep to your heart.
At that moment I switched focus from food for the body to food for the soul. It became my mission to connect on a real heart level with the soon-to-arrive couple. They needed that connection. I needed that connection.
Together, we experienced a week of talking and listening, laughing, praying, discussing, and encouraging. We recounted stories of triumph and tragedy. We reflected on God’s grace, mercy, kindness, goodness, and provision. We connected. We “saw” each other through the eyes of fellow laborers and through the eyes of our loving Father. No judgment. Tons of grace.
I am changed.
This past Sunday during church service, I saw my pastor through different eyes. I consciously looked past his appearance, past his preaching style, and past the surface stuff – to his heart. I saw a man that was striving in life to be more like Jesus. I saw a man who was called of God to serve the body of Christ in full-time ministry. I saw a regular guy; a regular guy with hopes and dreams and fears. I saw a regular guy with bills, a wife and kids, and more tasks to accomplish than hours in the day. I began to pray for him. I prayed for his emotional, spiritual, and physical needs. I prayed for him to be encouraged by the Holy Spirit and by the people he serves daily. I also prayed for others to “see” him in the same light, so that he wouldn’t feel invisible once he stepped down from the platform. Seen for the man he is. Not the title. Not the job description. Seen. Noticed. Appreciated. Loved.
Don’t we all need that as well?
To all ministry couples, I see you. More importantly, God sees you. Be encouraged.