There is an old story in a sacred book in which a God forms a garden. Within this beautiful space he calls into being animals and plants of all kinds of varieties. He fashions waters and dry lands, he sets lights to govern the day and the night. He makes everything fitting for its place. Finally, he crafts mankind: a man and a woman, made in his own image, male and female. He breathes his breath into the lungs of the man and the woman and they come alive, animated by his Spirit. The man and the woman are naked and they know no fear or shame.
This God would walk in the garden in the cool of the day, with the man and the woman, enjoying the heavy scent of the ground returning the sun’s heat in the evening air. Having opened this space within himself, the God would delight to open himself into the space, disclosing his mind, embracing that which he had created. The Spirit of the God danced among the trees, calling forth the waters to play and the birds to sing. The Word of the God anointed the animals with name and blessing, calling forth laughter. The Father in this God embraced all that had flowed out of him, declaring it good.
The God would walk in the garden in the cool of the day, naked with the man and the woman, naked. The day would settle and end in stillness and shalom, a deep peace of all things settled in their right rhythm, fitting place, loved gaze. The world existed within and through that gaze. And there was no shame and there was no fear.
If you gaze unstintingly into the eyes of a young baby, they will turn their head aside, avert their gaze. The reason is that the sensations stimulated by having such attention paid, within the baby’s brain, are too strong, too intense. Dazzling in their emotional intensity. A flood of neurochemical love.
To be fully seen is to be held in such a gaze. The gaze literally creates us in our early months. Many of us never learn to hold that gaze. Many of us grow up as adults still unable to tolerate attention being paid to us. We avert our gaze, we distract with humour, deflect attention away. We are unable to tolerate being seen. If we are to grow more full, then we need to discover how to hold such a gaze offered by those who love us. It is the beginnings of the pathway to healing and renovation.
John O’Donohue asks in his Benedictus who, ‘during this day has seen us?’
Who indeed, has seen me today?
(c) Simon P Walker 2011