“Mom! Come see!” my three-year-old son calls for the umpteenth time. I drag myself away from what I’m doing to ooh and ahh yet again over his newest magnetic tile creation. He isn’t satisfied with his tower or roadway until it has been seen and appreciated by everyone within earshot.
I was thinking of this recently as I considered social media habits: both my own, and those of others I know. Isn’t this what we do each time we post a photo of the loaf of bread we made or the verse we hand-lettered or the vacation we took? “Hey, everybody! Come see!”
To be seen is one of our deepest longings.
Consider Hagar, the slave of Abram’s wife Sarai, whom Sarai gave to Abram when she was unable to conceive children in order to carry on her family line. Once Hagar conceived a son, she began to despise Sarai, who in turn mistreated Hagar, causing her to flee to the desert. God sent the angel of the Lord to Hagar, who told her that God knew of her misery. Hagar responded, “You are the God who sees me…I have now seen the One who sees me.”(Genesis 16:13) In the midst of Hagar’s despair, what comforted her was not a promise from God that He would deliver her from a distressing situation, but that He saw her.
The desire to be seen is not sinful. We were made to be seen. In the Garden, after Adam and Eve sinned, their first impulse was to hide. One of the first results of their sin was a distortion of their God-given desire to be seen and known by the One who made them.
But the Fall has corrupted this good and natural desire. Now, we long not just to be seen by God, but to be seen as God. I recognize this desire in myself when I am tempted to garner the praise of others by posting a photo of something I accomplished or dropping an “offhanded” comment in conversation to brag on a good deed I did. I long not only to be seen, but to be adored.
Motherhood is one of the most unseen jobs. Who sees the sacrifices of time, money, personal space, or ambition that motherhood requires of us? Certainly not our children (at least not while they are little!). Twenty or thirty years ago, this was just a fact to be accepted, but with the advent of social media, now we can showcase our every act of service, kindness, patience, and even discipline for those who follow. We now face new temptations to brag, to overshare, and to try to increase our followers so that even more people can see and admire us. While it can be good to share snapshots of our lives—the things we do, the activities we enjoy, and the people we love—it becomes wrong when we look to the responses of others to satisfy our innate need to be seen and valued.
We’ll only find satisfaction for that desire in the One who sees all. No matter how much we share with others, and no matter how many people see what we share, it will never be enough. There will always be more that goes unseen. Our need to be seen is a need that can only be fulfilled by an infinite, omniscient, and loving God.
The good news for us is that this God promises that if we take hold of the hope He offers, through no merit of our own, we will find ourselves not only seen by Him, but recipients of the highest praise we could desire: “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
This is the deepest longing of our hearts. These are the words we were made to hear. These words will offer the satisfaction that no amount of likes or follows could ever give. So let’s live—both in our hearts and on our social media accounts—as though this is true.