“I just see you.”
For so long, this sentence brought a sigh of relief. When I heard it, I left safe. It was like a favorite blanket, a safe place to hide, a well-kept secret among friends.
But recently, I’ve felt something different when I hear those words. What once brought a sense of security, suddenly feels more like a trap.
So what changed?
Several years ago I began praying that God would give me eyes to see people like He does, through a lens of compassion, love, equality & empathy. Growing up, I didn’t really understand what it meant to love others well. I was selfish, quick to complain and slow to offer help (if I offered at all). Jesus loves people. He wanted me to the same. In fact, He commanded it in John 15:12. I love Jesus with all my heart. Now I needed to learn to love His people…all of them. I couldn’t articulate it at the time, but there were two things missing from my view of others: compassion & empathy. I had neither. So I began praying for both, not in so many words, but simply by saying, “Lord, help me see others the way you do.”
I love Jesus with all my heart. Now I needed to learn to love His people…all of them.
Seeing Others / Seeing Myself
Over time, my heart softened. I began to see others through a different lens. My compassion grew and so did my empathy for the experiences of others. I was changing. But, God was just getting started.
God didn’t want me to only change the way I saw others. He also wanted me to change the way I saw myself.
I felt myself losing control. This wasn’t suppose to be about me. It was suppose to be about others. Soon, I knew God was asking me to surrender. I felt Him gently say, “I want you to see yourself the way you’ve started to see others,” At the time, I thought He meant things like:
- Stop being a perfectionist
- Give yourself the same grace as others
- Don’t worry so much
- Let me lead and stop trying to control everything
I didn’t have a clue. Although not a bad place to start, those things were only skimming the surface. Sometimes I imagine God sitting in heaven with a smile on His face, head in His hand as He gently nods back and forth saying, “Oh Torrie.” I’m pretty sure He doesn’t do that, but I sure give Him plenty of reasons too. I also didn’t realize He was preparing me to do some deep, life-changing, stronghold-breaking work. If I had, I probably would have run in the opposite direction.
During this season, God was teaching me to accept myself. I thought I’d find it if I let go of fear, anxiety, perfectionism etc. While not completely wrong, that wasn’t the root holding me back. Let me be clear, this has nothing to do with thinking I’m not pretty enough, having a negative body image or other very real issue people deal with on a daily basis. For me, this was much, much deeper.
For me, this was about:
– accepting my ethnicity, my skin, my hair & my racial identity.
– loving & accepting the woman God hand-crafted, all of her and not just the half that fit in the best.
– freedom from conformity and assimilation for fear of what others would say, think or do.
If you’ve never been racially stereotyped, this may be hard to understand. I get that. I ask you to bear with me. Keep reading. Stay open-minded. Walk with in my shoes for a moment because they are the shoes of thousands of other women of color.
Hiding in Plain Sight
Looking back, I see how I desperately clung to the comfort & security I’d found in being ethnically invisible. It confirmed that, just like me, no one else saw the color of my skin. If they did, we just pretended it didn’t exist. As long as it stayed hidden I was safe – or so I thought. It was the worst kept secret. We all saw it, but no one talked about it.
Since I was color-blind myself, unwilling and afraid to see my own color & ethnicity, I welcomed the fact that others ignored it too. I learned early on acknowledging my race invited questions, comments, discrimination & pain. So in order to protect myself, I became invisible. Like a child who thinks no one can see them because they cover their own eyes, I believed if I didn’t see my color, neither would anyone else.
Being color-blind became my security.
Being color-blind became my security.
Then one day Jesus whispered “no more”.
No more hiding under long sleeves and straight hair.
No more denying the fullness of His creation.
No more looking at the world through beige-colored glasses.
My eyes had been opened. I couldn’t turn back now.
Prayer to Move Forward
I have no doubt those who’ve said they “just see me” never intended to hurt or dismiss my experience. Although some may say I’m making excuses for them, I’m not. They’ve always been kind and loving to me. Also, the “Torrie” I portrayed to others is the only version of myself most have ever known. I learned just because God has taken me on a journey bringing me to a deeper understanding of who I am, who I was created to be and the calling He’s given me, doesn’t mean anyone else fully understands yet. And that’s ok.
So how do we see people differently?
How do we remove beige-colored cataracts?
It begins with a desire to want to see people, really see them. Listen to their stories. Acknowledge they experience the world differently than you.
What do I do? I keep learning & listening. And I pray…
“Lord, use my testimony, my posts, my experiences and the experiences of others to breed empathy. Secondly, may there be an increased curiosity to learn, a desire to grow and a commitment to evolve. Let there will be an awaking to the richness, the culture, the diversity, the beauty, the experiences, the truth & the wisdom of people of color. Also, I pray for open hearts that are willing to both invite and include people of color into their circles. Finally, I pray for those who are color-blind, who look through lens that aim to make us all look the same, help them see people through the eyes of Jesus. Help them embrace the beauty of our God-given diversity. Amen.”
Learn more about being color-blind, as well as, additional terms & resources in my FREE Beginner’s Guide to Racial Reconciliation