Being Truly Seen

This is a picture of my father-in-law and mother-in-law, George and Joan Kuhlman, taken around 1958 when they were in their 20s.   George passed away in December 2009, and Joan is now in the latter stages of Alzheimer’s disease.

Shortly after George’s funeral, I had to take Joan to the Social Security office to register her for widow’s benefits.  After we were finished and I was taking her back to the assisted living facility, she said, “And he was such a young guy,” shaking her head sadly.

“Are you talking about George?” I asked.  She nodded her head yes.  “Well, he was 77,” I reminded her.  She shrugged her shoulders and looked out the car window.  Although at first I thought her comment was due to her affliction with Alzheimer’s, I realized later that what she said was true.

Her comment struck me because after 50 years of marriage, her memory of George was as a young man.  She didn’t see how he had aged, and how age made it almost impossible for him to walk. She saw him as he truly was at his most vibrant and happy self, unencumbered by the effects of aging.

I can now understand how my mother-in-law would think of her 77-year-old husband as “just a young guy.”  I know that after only 25 years of marriage, I still remember my husband as he looked on our wedding day.  Fortunately, he still sees me as I was 25 years ago, too.

This is a gift, I believe, that the Triune God shares with us in any long-term relationship we have on earth, whether it is marriage, family, or friendship.  The Father, Son, and Spirit see us at our best, most vibrant selves, and the aging process of our bodies does nothing to diminish our value in their sight.

This makes me think of the story of Samuel and his search for the man God had chosen to replace Saul as king of Israel.  Samuel took one look at Jesse’s oldest son, Eliab, and thought he was the one.  But God had a different idea:

            “Looks aren’t everything.  Don’t be impressed with his looks and stature.  I’ve already eliminated him.  God judges persons differently than humans do.  Men and women look at the face; God looks into the heart” (The Message, I Samuel 16:7).

The Triune God sees us at our deepest and most authentic and shares this ability with those people who choose to be a part of our life’s journey for the long haul.  The Father, Son, and Spirit know us on the inside, and any change that occurs on the outside is inconsequential to who we are at our core.  That is why my mother-in-law referred to her late 77-year-old husband as a “young guy.”  When we are committed to a relationship, we are blessed with the Triune God’s ability to look into another’s heart and truly see them for who they are.

                        ~by Nan Kuhlman

6 comments so far

  1. Jane Hinrichs on

    Nan, This is sweet. I love the pictures you included. I’m not sure i agree with you though. I think maybe she meant 77 was young because it is young really in relation to eternity. It isn’t that old. As my parents age I don’t see them as old though they are both 70 now. I am 43 and I do remember when I was in high school 43 sounded ancient. Heck, 33 sounded ancient. We gain a larger perspective on age as we age ourselves.

    But I do agree with so much you wrote. God does give us the ability to see each other, truly see each other though this transcends looks and age. This even applies to young people — a beautiful girl who wants to be loved, not for her pretty face but for who she is on the inside; a skinny guy who wants to be seen as the man he is within, not the boy he looks like, etc, etc, etc.

    • Nan Kuhlman on

      Jane,

      Given the Alzheimer’s disease she was (and is) struggling with, I’m not sure that the concept of eternity could really be a relevant thought. Alzheimer’s tends to lock the victim into old memories, but like you said, the longer we know someone, the more we tend not to see the aging of their bodies because we know them so well. That’s the gift I believe the Triune God shares with us, and this affirms once again the value the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit place on relationships. Thanks for your interest in the post.

      Nan

  2. shackbible on

    Beautiful story, Nan! This seems similar to the way we see beauty. It’s not in the eye of the beholder; it’s in the eye of God. I have known people with seriously deformed faces, whom I’ve come to know and love; and I’ve come to see them not just as “beautiful on the inside,” but even beautiful on the outside. I have learned to see their actual faces as beautiful, not because of pleasing proportions, but because that is the face of one I love.

    • Nan Kuhlman on

      Mr. Shackbible,
      I hadn’t really considered “being truly seen” as “being thought of as beautiful” but I agree. I, too, know people whose outward appearance is not attractive or beautiful, yet because I know their heart, I love them and the outward appearance is of no consequence. Since God is love, maybe this is the way that true beauty (for anyone) comes through. Love (which starts with the Father, Son, and Spirit) opens our eyes beyond what we can see on our own. Hmm…you’ve given me more to ruminate on. Thanks!

      Nan

  3. Jeannine on

    Just beautiful, Nan.

    • Nan Kuhlman on

      Jeannine,

      Thanks for your encouragement and kindness.

      Nan


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