Second Saturday of Advent: To Be Seen
One thing I ask from the Lord,
this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the Lord
and to seek him in his temple.
—Psalm 27:4 (Read Psalm 27)
We dwell. We gaze. We seek.
But first, we desire.
In my work as a psychiatrist, my patients and I often speak about how our minds are neurally primed to long for things. The brain is an organ that desires. It tells us of hunger and thirst, of the need for oxygen and warmth. These things we share with other animals. No wonder David uses the image of a deer as the metaphor for his thirst.
But I don’t merely long for those things that will comfort my physical senses. Even more desperately, I long to be known—known in ways that, as far as we are aware, only humans experience.
Every baby comes into the world looking for someone who is looking for her or him. There is no greater longing, and that longing never stops.
I long to be seen, to be heard, to be known. Moreover, I long that when I am seen, heard, and known, I can be confident that those who are coming to know me will not leave me.
For this to happen, I must be in a place and posture that will enable it. David’s words in Psalm 27:4 reveal the things I must seek so that I may be so deeply known: to dwell in the house of the Lord, to gaze upon His beauty, to seek His face.
To dwell is to live continuously in one place, no matter the changing circumstances, no matter my highly imperfect behavior. To dwell is to be known and received in God’s house in the very face of my shame as well as my joy.
Furthermore, to dwell in God’s house implies the progression of my understanding of that very term over the arc of the Biblical narrative. What began as the tabernacle of God in the Sinai Peninsula was more durably constructed into Solomon’s temple and ultimately rebuilt by Herod. And then it was transformed and reimagined by Jesus in John’s Gospel, where he astoundingly claims that He is the temple. And from there, we hear St. Paul’s words, extending our imaginations even further to embrace the reality that we, as the body of Jesus, are in fact God’s house.
To dwell in God’s house is to dwell in the midst of God’s people, whose very beauty—should we be willing to gaze long enough to see it—serves to release us to seek to follow Jesus where He is calling us to go.
In our psychotherapy practice, we provide people the opportunity to participate in group therapy, which has become one of the most effective settings for transformation that we offer.
It is here where men and women in the same circle of increasingly intimate sharing reveal and bear witness to each other’s deepest shame and fiercest longings.
Over the months during which these groups become deeply connected communities, I am moved as much as anyone as I experience the connection, courage, and creativity that emerges as group members take the inherently necessary risks required to dwell, gaze, and seek.
They dwell by remaining in the group, despite the terror of telling the truth.
They gaze as they see, hear, and feel steady, embodied compassion and expectation, as they will each other into recognizing the beauty of the relationships unfolding before and between them.
They seek by naming their deepest desires in all domains and relationships of their lives, realizing many of them in the process, but buoyed as well when many of them never are.
These groups give me the courage to practice this same transparency—hopefully—with the men I have been meeting with each week for over 20 years. We meet for our own confession and prayer, trusting that God is using this practice to turn us into more of who He imagines us to be.
This Advent, I am trying to dwell, gaze, and seek.
It is my prayer that you too will find what you are seeking as you take your place in the house of God’s people, discovering the beauty that you already are.
Curt Thompson is a psychiatrist with Curt Thompson, MD & Associates, and a long-time friend and supporter of the CCO. His wife, Phyllis, is a CCO staff alumna.