Before whose gaze do you really want to live?
I don’t know about you but my April and May have become the Zooming season. Before Covid, social media and video calls were things my teenagers did – but now I’m there with the best of them.
And in many ways it’s been a blessing hasn’t it? It has enabled some of us to keep working, and many of us to sustain relationships which ‘lockdown’ would have otherwise severed. It isn’t perfect, but seeing one another live on our screens will always beat a phone call.
But ‘being seen’ can also make us over-conscious of what we’re putting on display. Zoom lets us curate and manage the impression we make. We can decide when to press ‘join’,what to put on show in the background, what to wear, what angle to use, and when to ‘leave’. Someone even told me that they fake a ‘freeze’ if they’re not sure what to say!
Most of us hide what we don’t want others to see and display what we’re pleased with – presenting a better version of ourselves than the real thing. What have you deliberately kept out of sight: the dirty pile of washing; the empty bottle of wine from last night; the fact that you’re still wearing your pyjamas. Perhaps it’s more serious things like a bad family moment unfolding behind the shut door, or the fall out with your housemate.
Some, of course, prefer to act out ‘care-worn’, or ‘needy’, or whatever we think will get the response we want.
Well this is not just a Zoom thing; it’s a human thing. In all of our relationships, we are – to some extent at least – controlling and gate-keeping just how much of our real selves we will let others see. In Matthew 6, Jesus calls it “living before the eyes of men to be seen by them”. He knows we desire approval and fear disapproval and he warns us against living like that. He acknowledges that it sort of works. It is rewarding to get the thumbs up from others…but it is short lived. So we can easily become approval addicts. Actors performing to an audience whilst we hide our real selves away.
But Jesus’ big point isn’t how we live before others; it’s how we live before the eyes of our Heavenly Father. “Go into your room” he says, “close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”
Let me ask you this. Do you pray like you’re on a Zoom call? What do you hide? What do you present? What impression do you try to create? What reaction do you hope to avoid or achieve? Do you only press ‘join’ when you feel ready, you know what you should say and you’ve left the struggles and mess of your day in the other room and you know you can always press ‘leave’ if things feel awkward. Jesus says your Heavenly Father already knows the real you completely. He sees everything about you inside and out…all the time.
So when you pray, bring to God everything that you are. There is no other way to relate to God and being real will change everything.
Do you long to be told you’re good enough. Take an honest look at the whole you before the searching eyes of our holy God, and he will relieve you of that burden. You can both see that’s never going to work. Stop exhausting yourself; come owning your limitations; and let Jesus do and be what you never could.
Perhaps you’re someone who fears disapproval and hides your shame. Bring the whole you before the eyes of God, and he will relieve you of that burden. You can both see that’s never going to work. Uncover your shame, and you will find that Jesus covers it for you.
We all need a Saviour to deal with our mess. A ‘Zoom call’ life before the eyes of God will not do it. But Jesus lived and died to enable you to come as you really are. This is the one relationship where you cannot and need not pretend.