By Debbie Shope
No thank you. Invasion of personal space. Turn your gaze elsewhere if you will. After all, the poor guy in Song of Solomon had his heart held hostage with just the glance of his lover’s eyes (4:9) — this eye contact thing is powerful stuff.
For those who are blessed with a natural and easy social manner, this little non-verbal gem comes without thought or effort. For those of us who are not so endowed, however, this handy little skill can be a bit perplexing. I confess, I am often one of the perplexed. Apparently I am not alone. We are a subtle group, for most of us have learned the little tricks that help us appear to be looking you in the eye, yet still preserving what we feel is a comfortable “optical distance”. We are everywhere among you, but most often you don’t even know — we are that good 🙂
So why am I spending a perfectly good snow day thinking about this, let alone writing a blog about it? Well, on one level, whether looking into the eyes of another person is easy or difficult, it is part of being human. Sharing eye contact, whether brief or maintained, creates a connection. We look at the people we love, and we are touched when they return the gaze. The dearest memory of this in my life is Ward saying his vows at our wedding — all of the love and promise of the words were evident in his eyes. And it is that picture in my mind that I return to often, even after many years.
But I am pondering this visual tactic for a more current reason. Our home group is doing Living for the King this winter, and this whole topic was brought home to me the other night when Meredith Elder was talking about repentance. I felt I was fairly aware of this concept — after all, I have plenty of opportunity for practice. However, he spoke of a part of repentance, a second “step” of sorts (my words, not his), that I realized I rarely get to. It turns out that after we have looked at ourselves, recognized our sin and confessed it, we need to look at Jesus. We need to see the love and promise and forgiveness in His eyes. For someone who is reluctant to look anyone in the eye, peering into the eyes and heart of the Son of God, let alone having Him peer into my own heart and soul, is not a comfortable place. It feels vulnerable. I feel exposed. I don’t want to look. And yet, on the occasions when He, by His grace, has turned my head to see the tenderness and compassion in His eyes, I wish I could never look away.
One day it will be that way. All of the self-conscious drivel and daily distractions will fall away and we will with wide-eyed pleasure look into the eyes of El Roi — the God who sees. Yes, thank you — my personal space is now His.