For the last weeks, Sici’s collected boxes. One fits inside another inside another. She will wrap them in different papers, and her friends will unwrap one at a time, passing the square around the party circle.
I’m not sure if it’s the peeling itself or watching friends discover the center she most anticipates, but we know there’s something about uncovering mystery and getting at the heart.
I sit in a circle, and we — black, white, Latino — talk the unspoken of race, and we peel skin like onion paper. Dropping layers before each other is good and it hurts, and we misunderstand, and we try to speak bravely with hearts pulsing love because God first loved us.
None in the circle is the sum of appearance, hue, experience, thoughts or feelings, though to love, we need to know these boxes.
But, too, we humans are indefinable by the layers, and it’s still mystery, the four sides that hem and stuff and limit and the essence of what’s truly inside. Sometimes I fear what’s there and showing it and being misjudged or hurting her as she reveals her core.
On Friday, friends of many years sit around a dinner table and speak out loud the inner assumptions we make about how we are seen when we enter a room. The conversation fascinates us — our same and different and the inside walls of these realities stored away in shadow within the first few boxes.
I basically assume people will like me.
I think they will probably like me once they get to know me.
I think they will misjudge me, so I’m trying to figure out what they need from me.
I assume they won’t get me, and it will take them a long while to know who I am.
We shift out from four sides and reveal more from the insides.
This morning, I read about Hagar — oppressed, cast aside, wounded, breathing despair — and God speaks to this running, hurting woman beside a spring in the desert, and she calls the water Beer Lahai Roi, the Well of the Living One Who Sees Me.
She is refreshed by being seen. She is sustained in the place she is seen. She is made new as she is seen.
She is not maidservant to Sarah, despised woman, mother of Abraham’s baby, not even Hagar. She is one who is more and knowing she is known breathes hope.
Somewhere deep inside her walls, she recognizes that layers peeled without love wound and minimize, but to be known and loved as wrappings come loose — oh, friends, how that frees.
Today, I’m joining up again with dear Amber Haines of The Runamuck, as we continue our exploration of voice in writing — using words we can see and touch to express things we cannot. Please visit Amber’s to read her glorious writing and that of other writers and friends who link up there. This week’s piece began with the prompt “THE BOX.”
Subscribe for updates
and be the first to receive posts and exclusive content. You'll also receive my FREE resource.
I too read of Hagar this morning, and every time I am comforted deeply in His seeing. A beautiful post you have here.
Thank you so much, Nellie. I appreciate your presence here. The story of Hagar is such an incredible one. It stirs me each time I read it.
:) to you, too, M.
Hi dear Ashley
Oh, my friend, this touches my heart. When we know the One who sees us, then the world cannot chain us in any way for our hearts are so free in Him. Thank you dear one. This is beautiful!
Yes, Mia! You are so right — to be known by God is to be set free. Thank you, as always, for joining me here!
I, too read about Hagar this morning – taken there by Sarah young in Jesus calling. Especially grateful for your timely post . . . But seems that’s how god works . . . Will remember “being seen”, with visual of special layered boxes story :)
Yes, it was Jesus Calling that led me to Hagar, as well – a day “behind,” I think. I’m amazed how often God speaks to me through that book, so often echoing what he’s teaching me. Another I read almost daily that informs my writing is Reflections for Ragamuffins by Brennan Manning. Thank you for your words, dear Deb. I appreciate you.
Ashley, this is a particularly gorgeous post.
Thank you so much, Luanne. I truly appreciate your words and loved catching up a bit on your blog today.
I’m going right now to re-read all about Hagar…..:-)
It’s good stuff, friend. I’d love to know your reflections on her, too.
hmmmmmm. I feel a wee bloggy coming on….:-)
Yeah! Looking forward to it, Fiona!
“layers peeled without love wound and minimize, but to be known and loved as wrappings come loose — oh, friends, how that frees”. A perfect description of friendship and oneness; and truly, God knows all our layers and loves us anyway!
Yes, Tresta. God is that perfect friend. And, too, I’m so grateful to receive those glimpses of him through knowing and being known in my friendships here and now.
Being seen, being known and being loved (anyway) – I wonder if there’s more we could ever want on earth. A beautiful post Ashley – with beautiful imagery to hold onto.
Thank you for your words, Mama. Yes, I believe you’re so right…what a gift to treasure — those sparks of unconditional love.
My blog is titled “He sees me” because of this story of Hagar. How I am always overwhelmed at the being seen by God.
This was a beautiful way to approach the “BOX” prompt Ashley. So good to be here today friend. :)
Thank you so much, Danelle. Of course — your blog name…I hadn’t put that together. Yes, indeed — to be SEEN, truly seen by God and loved perfectly. I can barely wrap my head around the goodness of it. Thankful to write in community with you.
Enjoyed this post today.
It was just about a year ago that the phrase Beer Lahai Roi, so struck me and I journal and posted about it. He seeing us first, not us seeking Him (as good as seeking Him is) is what gives us our glorious position, or confidence, in our relationship with God, and then all other human relationships can flow from there. Really interesting perspective with the image of the box. I enjoyed runamuck site
and love her words. I debated joining, but something tells me I need to scale back the ole blog time as of right now. So I’ll just quietly read instead.
What a great point, Leah. I love how you say that his seeking us is what gives us the glorious confidence from which all other (good) relationships flow. Isn’t that the truth? It seems many women have found much comfort in the example of Hagar. To be seen, truly seen and loved, seems so central to all of us.
Amber is such an incredible writer — I have read her quietly for years. Would love to have you join us for Concrete Words sometime, but absolutely respect the scaling back that we all need to do at various times and in various ways.
Thanks so much for spending time here, Leah. :-)
Maybe it comes down to how we feel about ourselves. What others sense is our self- awareness.Their baseline on judging others may come from their own social sensitivity and interaction.
It’s an interesting mix of variables that go into these human relationships, isn’t it? As we talked about today, I can assess myself so wrongly and so, for me, truly knowing what God says about me is primary to my being able to not only believe the truth about myself, but to function in health with others.
I loved this – the unspoken assumptions (which made me wonder about my unspoken assumptions about how people see me) and Hagar! – i also have rediscvoerd her in recent months. we peel skin like onion paper – beautiful, beautiful phrase. I love the way you stitched this all together.
Thank you, Tanya. Another Hagar appreciator! :-) It is interesting, isn’t it, all those unspoken “rules” we employ in our relationships and communication? This was an interesting prompt for me to explore. Look forward to connecting with you again at Amber’s sometime soon.
Oh, Ashley, this image of the boxes will stick with me- and the pensive words you’ve shared here need to tumble around in my head a bit, because I see myself a bit in each box. I love the story of Hagar, the name she gave God- was just sharing that one with my kindergartener yesterday. Oh, that we have a God who SEES— amazing!
You were sharing that yesterday, too? Wow, I am amazed by all those who have intersected with the story of Hagar recently! What a special message to give to one so young — that God sees you and loves you. It is amazing! Thank you for your words here, dear Alicia.
Love the images & where you took this prompt Ashley! I haven’t had time to respond to your posts lately, but want you to know I have been reading them & continue to be blessed & impressed by this gift of writing God has given you…keep up the good work!
Thanks so much for your encouragement, dear friend. Just knowing you are reading blesses me immensely. Love you.
I really love this. And it is so ongoing, this “Braving” up to let ourselves peel and be peeled with love. To be seen and accepted is so healing, each and every time it happens throughout our lives. Thx so much again ;D
You had me at “boxed in”. Cuz, see, there’s this quote I treasure:
“If we are to love our neighbors, before doing anything else we must see our neighbors. With our imagination as well as our eyes, that is to say like artists, we must see not just their faces but the life behind and within their faces. Here it is love that is the frame we see them in.” Buechner
Your post just illustrates this so well. Thank you. You have walked out love, friend.