Seeing the Person Right in Front of Me

by Mark Votava


Every person is so valuable to our Creator.

James M. Houston notes, “If God created us in his own image, to be like him, then every single person has an incalculable value …”

  •  Everyone is created with such deep value and mystery

Every person in their humanity is created with such deep value and mystery.  It is so valuable that when this value and mystery lies undiscovered, we live with a disability in our self-perceptions that scar us our whole lives.

  •  Cultivating the communal imagination

We hold such value and mystery toward one another in the parish.  Everyday relational life should be focused on drawing out these assets.  Doing so cultivates the communal imagination.  Searching for the value and mystery in others is one of the ways we learn to love.  It is there, we just have to find it.

  •  Seeing the person standing right in front of me

Barbara Brown Taylor articulates this well, “The point is to see the person standing right in front of me, who has no substitute, who can never be replaced, whose heart holds things for which there is no language, whose life is an unsolved mystery.  The moment I turn that person into a character in my own story, the encounter is over.  I have stopped being a human being and have become a fiction writer instead.

I cannot turn others into an object to be manipulated.  I must see their mystery. I must see their value.  Anything less makes me less than human.

  •  Encouraging our mutual humanity

We need to encourage our mutual humanity by learning to see the value and mystery within each of us because we are all created in the image of God. The body of Christ in the parish has to nurture this value and mystery in others. This is where the relational miracles will take place among us, when our value and mystery are liberated.

This is the way Christ related to the people of his day.

Now one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, so he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table.  When a women who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisees house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears.  Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.

When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is – that she is a sinner.”

Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”

“Tell me, teacher,” he said.

“Two men owed money to a certain moneylender.  One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty.  Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he canceled the debts of both.  Now which of them will love him more?”

Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled.”

“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.

Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman?  I came into your house.  You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair.  You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet.  Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven – for she loved much.  But he who has been forgiven little loves little” (Luke 7:36-47).

I like this story because Jesus is seeing the value and mystery in this woman whom others saw as something less than beautiful.  Others saw her as “sinful” and wrote her off as having nothing of value or mystery.  She was just who they thought her to be.  But Jesus saw her for who she was, as a person created in the image of God.

She had value and mystery to Jesus.  She had human worth to Jesus.  He probably had known this woman in his local context and saw how others had constantly made her to be something less than human.

  •  How we are called to love

Jesus wanted to show everyone what the kingdom of God is like relationally through his interaction with this woman.  Others had a hard time grasping the love that Christ was demonstrating toward this woman.  And yet this is how we are called to love: by seeing the value and mystery in others in the place where we live.

How have you valued others in life?