"Don’t look at me in that tone of voice.” If I had a five dollar bill for every time I’ve heard Nancy say that to me, well, I’d have a lot of five dollar bills. Looking at her in that tone of voice is one of my failings – it’s a look that conveys irritation, exasperation, and frustration. A look nobody should get. Especially someone I love. Especially someone who I can easily (well, most of the time anyhow) see that of God in.
So, before taking on seeing that of God in everyone in the entire world, it might be good for me to practice at home. After all, if I can’t see it there, chances are I’m not going to be able see it in some white supremacist or Islamic jihadist. Especially since I find both of those types really annoying and just plain wrong in their views.
Well, maybe seeing God in a white supremacist or Islamic jihadist would be easier. After all, they are examples of people Iwill most likely not run into often. Or have to live with. They are abstractions to most of us. Wheareas our spouses, kids, neighbors, coworkers and other regular contacts are people that inhabit our lives with all their imperfections.
Yes, imperfections. The idea of looking for that of God in everyone doesn’t deny that the people in whom God dwells are imperfect. They’re human, too! Just like we are. Imperfect. Just like we are.
The first step in seeing that of God in anyone is seeing them as fully human as we see ourselves. And accepting them in that humanity. they are trying to live up to the leadings of God (even if they don’t call it by that name) as we are. Being a horrible human being is rarely on anybody’s agenda. “I think I’ll get up today and be a real son of a bitch,” said no one ever. They may have gotten up and acted like a real son of bitch – but rarely, in their thinking, were they one. They had their reasons for doing the things they did. Fully justifiable (in their minds and hearts) for doing them. Hmmm, just like I me!
Part of the reason for looking for that of God in others is that whole love thing. It is really hard for me to be hateful to someone I love. No matter how good a mad I’ve got on. So long as I look at someone through the eyes of “the mad”, I can keep that hate heat banked and smoldering for quite a while. And I don’t really “look” at them anyhoo. I look all around them. Above them, below them, beside them. But not into their eyes. When I look into their eyes, I begin to look into their soul, their eyes being the window of their soul, as Shakespeare said. When I look into their soul, that’s when I see that of God there – loving them, guiding them,
Another reason is to be able to call them into living up to it. In the same way we do ourselves. As we pay attention to promptings of God within our hearts and souls, we begin to live more fully into Spirit’s presence. We know that it sometimes helps to have someone help us by reminding us, too. Like when I’m at work and say something completely outrageous that is not quite true and my good friend Deborah cocks her head and gives me a look that says, “Really? Really??” Sigh, no, not really. I could be a little more careful with the truth.
There are two things that I’ve learned that help me see that of God in others.
- Making caring for others a daily practice. I come first. I am the center of my universe. Except, of course, I’m not. I need to balance my needs and wants with those of others – especially those others I spend lots of time with. As I care for people, they become less abstract and more real as children of God, worthy of the love, respect, and care I desire for myself. And by being kind, I model the deep, deep love of God.
- Practicing gratitude – being thankful for the people who share life with me, helps me see God’s providing, watchful care over me. God has blessed me with these people in my life. All of them. I can whine about the annoying ones (and shut down God’s promptings of love in my own live) or I can be grateful for the gift of life and its varied experiences. Wow, that sounds pretty Jack Handy-ish, doesn’t it! But it’s true. Studies show that people who are in the habit of expressing gratitude are more likely to be helpful, generous, compassionate, and forgiving—and they’re also more likely to be happy and healthy. Wow, seeing that of God in others has health benefits?? Who knew!