One of the greatest gifts you can give another human being is to really see them.
Not who you wish them to be, not the version of themselves that makes you the most comfortable, not the one that is the most convenient for you, but the most authentic self they can muster at a given moment.
And to live is to be in battle.
Each of us fights like hell every single day to spend our time fully in the light, prone to so much shadow dwelling because we’re all afraid to reveal the fullness of who we really are to those we share this space with. We fear the rejection we believe will almost surely come once people truly know the depths of our flaws and the nature of our imperfections. It’s so very rare to witness someone bring all of themselves out into the open the way we did this week.
June 1st was actually my birthday, and it was a birth of sorts for Caitlyn Jenner too, a woman whose prolonged gestation period lasted 780 unimaginable months; decades and decades of lying, hiding, concealing, and denying what she knew to be true about the deepest parts of herself. Taking that bravest of steps out into the raking light of complete revelation took more courage than most of us will ever really understand.
While millions of people all over the globe rose in unison to applaud and support Caitlyn and the beginning of a life lived without secret shame or compromise, some insisted defiantly that they would still refer to her as “him”, and still by the name of “Bruce.” Many others flatly refused to acknowledge her arrival at all, some choosing to make a joke at her expense.
I’m profoundly sad for these people, because in this brazen declaration of intentional blindness they are refusing to acknowledge that another person knows the truth about themselves better than they do about them. They are just arrogant enough to believe that what another person experiences as an insider, matters less than what they believe about that person from a great distance.
I have no idea what it’s like to walk in Bruce or Caityln Jenner’s shoes, but this is true of every other human being who has ever walked the planet as well. I am the only person about whose heart I am completely qualified to speak about. As much as I hate to admit it, the jurisdiction of my authority and expertise ends abruptly at my own epidermis. Beyond that I am simply speculating (with sincere or suspicious motives) and so I need to yield to others when they speak about their story.
As someone who seeks to live a life in the footsteps of Jesus, I continually reflect upon his eyesight; the way he saw clearly into the very depths of people and made them feel seen and known and loved. Whether they were priests or soldiers or children or beggars or hookers, he viewed beneath the surface and into the heart of who they were and stopped to stay there.
I want eyes like that. I want to see all people this way; to peel away the facades and the layers and the false selves they feel so compelled to erect and fortify, and to look directly into the hidden sacred space of their truth. I want to be a safe sanctuary for them to share the whole of who they are. That is how my faith gets flesh, how it becomes more than some theoretical exercise that collapses when tested.
And I want to do this because I understand if only slightly, what it’s like to be purposefully invisible, to live afraid of being naked and exposed, to believe that only a select part of me is worth sharing. I understand what it’s like to be certain that once I am fully seen that I will be found unloveable, and then the great, life-giving surprise when I am loved still.
Yesterday someone whose story is so very different from mine, began a new journey so very unfamiliar to me, yet in the most important ways it is familiar ground. We all walk this road together partially in hiding; hoping to find a home inside our own skin, hoping to make peace with the full truth of who we are, and praying that we will be safe there once we do.
Today another human being moved out from the shadow places and asked to be fully seen, full known, fully loved. She said that her name was Caitlyn.
And so, I will call her “Caitlyn.”