Have you ever felt like you're just taking up space?
You know that awkward feeling of trying to make conversation with someone you've just met at a party but then their gaze shifts and their eyes start to circle the room? It's as if they are just searching for someone they know so they can excuse themselves politely. Or maybe you're in a relationship that's starting to feel pretty lacklustre, and you have a nagging feeling that your partner is waiting for someone more effervescent, better looking or more interesting to come along?
Maybe at the job, you think you were given a leadership role as a temporary measure until someone with more experience joins the company. Or you could have just become a member of a club where you don't feel like you fully fit in or are accepted.
In these circumstances, you are there physically but it's as if you're not really there. You are a stopgap. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a "stopgap" as "someone or something that is intended to be used for a short time and then replaced by someone or something better: a temporary substitute." A stopgap is like a filler: "something added to augment weight or size or fill space." It's a backup, standby or stand-in. A stopgap is useful for a specific, limited purpose but its presence is never an end in itself.
Feeling like a stopgap is not a comfortable experience. But do we ever make others feel like this?
We do whenever we treat things better than we treat people. For example, a husband may be more adoring and attentive to a new car or latest gadget than to his wife or her needs. Some children are more respectful and careful in the way they treat their new IPad than their parents. Parents can devote themselves more to the computer than they do speaking to and hugging their children.
We also do it when we treat people differently based on our assessment of characteristics (such as their income, looks, intelligence or popularity) or when we surround ourselves only with those whose connections and resources we believe we can benefit from while separating ourselves from those who need our help.
Yet our most basic need is to feel wanted, appreciated, valued for who we are. We want people to see us for who we really are and love us in spite of our faults. We want the focus of your attention, time and affection.
For Christians, how do we believe God sees us?
The Love Letter
We read scriptures where it says He rejoices over His people with singing (Zephaniah 3 verse 17), that He rejoices over the one person who comes into a relationship with Him (Luke 15 verse 10). But can we get personal a minute?
He is talking about you. In God's eyes, you are IT. You are not holding a space for someone "better" to come along. You are a BIG deal to God. Let's look at Psalm 139 verses 1 – 18:
You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, "Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,"
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother's womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
How vast is the sum of them!
Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand—
when I awake, I am still with you.
Talk about intimacy! The psalmist is describing a God who sees you.
A forgotten woman and the One who sees
Consider the story of a pregnant housemaid. This woman had been forced to sleep with her boss and she later has to flee mistreatment at the hands of his wife. Alone, with nowhere to turn, the woman wanders around in a desolate place. When she feels like she is at the end of her rope, God shows up and tells her he is going to increase her descendants so much that they will be too numerous to count. In those days, having generations of offspring was considered a blessing. It was an honour, a sign of God's favour and signified a secure future and living legacy. Here she was, a virtual nobody in terms of her position and power in the household, and now the God of the Universe talking to her.
The woman, Hagar, is understandably overwhelmed. She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: "You are the God who sees me," for she said, "I have now seen the One who sees me." (Genesis 16 verse 13).
God is all seeing, all knowing, all present and He can pick you out in a crowd. He knows your voice because He gave it to you. He knows what you look like: He created you. He knows your dreams because he designed you to fulfil them. In affirming our worth, Jesus said "Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered." (Luke 12 verse 7). Chances are, no matter how much they love you, your spouse is never going to devote time to lovingly and painstakingly count every strand of hair on your head.
God as a stand-in?
We know that we are special to God, so why do we treat God as if he is a stand-in for something else? Yes, we may go to church for a few hours on a Sunday but the rest of the week, our minds, hearts and bodies are in passionate pursuit of other things like money, possessions, success, friends and every other thing except God.
We are told repeatedly in the scriptures that God is jealous. This means He doesn't want to share your heart with anything or anyone else. Obviously, God wants us to love other people and there is nothing wrong with acquiring possessions but we must never value them more than God or begin to worship them. Your loyalty, allegiance and one true love has got to be Jesus. This is why God exhorts his church in Revelations:
"You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first." (Revelation 2 verses 4-5)
He doesn't want half-hearted, mechanical, lukewarm praise (Revelation 3 verses 15-16). He deserves the best we have to give. He gives us His best everyday.
The question to ponder this week is: now that we know how God feels about us, how should we treat God?
Has your love gone cold? Go back to the One who sees you.
Sharma Taylor is a corporate attorney with a Doctor of Philosophy Degree in Law from Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand. She won the 2017 Basil Sellers International Young Writers prize in the Press Service International young writer program, the 2019 Tronson Award (International) and the 2021 Basil Sellers award for International Senior Writers. Every day, she loves experiencing the beautiful surprises that God has stored up for her and longs to keep cultivating a servant-heart.