I have a longtime friend who has many skills. He’s a great preacher and teacher. A strong leader. Faithful father. Fervent pray-er. Diligent reader. Thoughtful writer. Generous giver. Committed jogger.
And a really good winker.
There can be months where we go without seeing each other. And then we cross paths at a conference or an event. Maybe a meeting. Unfailingly he will greet me with a warm, enthusiastic smile followed by an embrace, some kind words, and a wink.
I look for it. Wait for it. Makes me feel like a million bucks for those few minutes we are together.
I know winks—depending on the context and culture—can mean various things. But when my friend winks, there is no mistaking what he is communicating: “I like you! I’m glad I know you! It’s so good to be in your presence!”
Acceptance. Affirmation. Affection. Solidarity.
That’s the power of a wink.
A wink presupposes sight. You don’t wink at someone unless you see them. To wink at someone is to notice them.
I don’t know if Jesus was a winker, but I do know he was a looker. He saw people. He noticed them. Author Paul E. Miller observes that the Gospels mention Jesus looking at people about 40 times. Here are a few examples:
• “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them.” (Mt. 9:36)
• “Jesus looked at him and loved him.” (Mk. 10:21)
• “Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, ‘Do you see this woman?’” (Lk. 7:44)
• “When Jesus saw his mother there, . . .” (Jn. 19:26)
• “The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter.” (Lk. 22:61)
Looking was Jesus’ MO because loving was Jesus’ MO. Miller rightly notes, “Love begins with looking.”
It’s easy to miss people (and not just in a crowd). We are so preoccupied. Our minds can race a hundred miles an hour. We are easily distracted (who doesn’t have ADD to some degree?).
We may be present but not really there. We may be hearing but not listening.
Looking but not seeing.
Nothing got by Jesus. I mean, no person ever got by Jesus. Not even a Zacchaeus–he was the “wee little man” who climbed up in a sycamore tree amidst a throng of people–could escape Jesus’ attention. The story reads, “When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said, . . .” (Lk. 19:5).
What’s interesting is that psychological research shows that being powerful impedes one’s ability to see people. Powerful people tend to overlook the less powerful and not try as hard to understand them. Powerful people take cognitive shortcuts and are more likely to use stereotypes and thus get people wrong.
Not see them for who they really are.
Yet Jesus, the most powerful person to ever walk this planet, never overlooked a person. His power didn’t get in the way of his vision. He saw the big people and the little people, the strong and the weak, the mighty and the lowly.
Remember the Dick and Jane books used to help us learn how to read in 1st grade? One of the very first words was LOOK.
Next time you go shopping or walk through your office, remove your Beats and put your phone away. When you sit down for dinner with your family tonight, turn off the TV and leave your iPad in the other room.
Look at the image-bearers in front of you. Make eye contact. Smile.
And think about winking.