It’s so true what they say, “Eyes are the window into the soul.”
I hadn’t seen him in over 10 years but from afar I immediately recognized his tall, thin frame and body language. We were kids together, related through marriage. I was an only child when we first met and so he quickly became the brother I had always wanted. As he watched me approach now, he smiled his usual crooked smile- one side of his mouth curled up wild. It’s more like a smirk than a smile, uniquely all his own. The closer that I got to him, I noticed that a difficult life had taken it’s toll. He looked much different than I had remembered, his face weathered and strikingly harsh. We hugged each other tightly and began the usual salutations, “it’s been a long time….”.
As he began telling me about the long hours that he works, in order to stay out of trouble, and named off the children he has now, our eyes connected. Suddenly, there was the boy that I knew in those big blue eyes staring back into mine. That familiar twinkle completely caught me off guard and I thought to myself, “There you are!!!”. As I stood listening to him, I began grinning ear to ear because I was suddenly taken back to memories of our childhood. We loved each other something fierce and that love was equally matched in the way that we fought: like prison inmates.
We were about 11 and 9 years of age and in an argument. I was always striving to outwit him in arguments because he would grow quickly frustrated. Being the stubborn redhead that I am, always took his emotional outbursts as another win for my imaginary trophy case. It was in another moment of desperation, knowing the shame of losing to me once again, he shouted “FAGGOT!”, right in my face. I wasn’t old enough to really understand what that term meant, but I was old enough to know that it was derogatory. As soon as the words left his mouth, with zero hesitation, I knocked the ever living shit out of him. A brawl broke out- we continued to beat the snot out of each other until my mom overheard us and intervened. We immediately began sobbing like crazy because we knew we were dead meat. It’s hysterical recalling it now- just how often we got scrappy- though at the same time, he and I were incredibly protective of one another. We hated when our counterpart got into trouble, so there were many times we took the heat for each other. We functioned like real flesh and blood siblings.
I was incredibly thankful for the opportunity to see him again. Though, I think what fascinated me the most was that moment of searching the eyes of a man for the boy that I loved with such fury, once upon a time. In fact, that stuck with me more than anything that was verbalized during our interaction that day. That’s the moment it began to hit me:
You can find one’s humanity by searching their eyes. It is there that raw, beautiful, vulnerability has a hard time hiding.
Crotchety old men tend to be my favorite when it comes to this fact. They come off like they are angry with the whole entire world, and when you search their eyes, they are immediately found out. The grumpiness is all for show and that facade proves to be nothing more than a diversion away from the fear they actually are overcome with. I usually smile softly until they crack and smile back at me. Then I wink, as if to say: “Nice try, grandpa. I see you.”
I have the opportunity to see this play out over and over at work. A government job means interacting with hundreds of people on a daily basis. People of all ages, nationalities, and economic statuses pass by my desk, a constant stream of souls shuffling through. I’m a natural “people person” and so finding something to chat about while I process whatever paperwork they have is as easy as breathing. The stories that I hear are incredible, many heartbreaking. “Please tell me you can help me. My husband and I are going through a divorce. He took out all of these credit cards in my name and charged up thousands and thousands of dollars. He was living a double life- we had been married 21 years..” I see the fear and the sadness before she even says a word and the shame she immediately feels after telling her story. For a few moments, there’s a connection of one human soul to the other- empathy offered and received, and it all takes place through the eyes.
This revealing vulnerability and unspoken language is even more intense and beautiful in a marriage- two people who know each other so well, so deeply- as one flesh. They can crawl into bed after a long exhausting day out in the world- lay their heads on fluffy pillows, facing one another, and have a conversation without a single word. It’s a silent, “I love you, and I’m glad you’re here with me, even in the trenches”.
I’ve just found it so fascinating that our creator would give us this ability to see and be seen for more than just our outer “shell”. Our eyes actually showcase not only the realness of our humanity, but the value of our very being. I found this quote in a book that I’m reading currently, “God Loves Sex”, and while this post isn’t really about sex, I had been chewing on these things already and this tidbit inspired me to throw my thoughts into the open:
“Beauty– male or female, old or young, overweight or thin– is meant to capture our desire and delight. First, every culture defines what is beautiful, and any variance is seen as less attractive. This is a failure to see that every bit of creation bears the beauty of the Creator. There is beauty in every body, in every portion of creation……The more we delight in inner beauty, the more we will be readily disposed to be in awe of the beauty even in an aging person. We must grow in our ability to see the body as a reflection of the glory of the unseen.” (God Loves Sex, pg 80)