Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved.Psalm 80:3
When I woke up Monday morning, all my Twitter notifications were about Hallmark. Last week, the Hallmark Channel responded to complaints from a conservative organization by removing ads from Zola, a wedding registry website, that featured lesbian brides. As the story unfolded, I saw the expected demands for boycotts of the channel and accountability from the parent company. But I also saw calls for wider representation in the cable network’s movies; viewers want to see lead characters in romantic movies who are not only not straight but also not exclusively white and Christian.
It all connects for me to the refrain in Psalm 80, which I find captivating whenever it appears in Advent. “Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved.” It’s a reminder that the light we are seeking is not just a source of illumination but a sense of recognition and an assurance of connection.
We want and need to feel seen by God, seen for how we are and who we are. We want and need to feel seen by others, seen for how we are and who we are.
As in most situations where a company is perceived as too loose by some and too exclusionary by others (see Chik Fil A), it’s hard to calculate how one average person’s actions can make a difference in changing things until we come down from the balcony view and consider the people around us. The kind of love that restores us is active attention.
While I was working on this reflection, I mistyped “restored” as “restoried,” and I think that’s an apt and imaginative prescription for this season. Somewhere today each of us will come in contact with someone who needs to know about God’s restoring love. They might be the person shopping at Target with a small, cranky child and drawing negative attention. They might be stopping by our office with a surface purpose that camouflages an underlying need. That person might even be looking back at us from the mirror. In the hurry of this season we may want to keep to ourselves and ignore the situation, or stick to the task that keeps us from going deep, or keep compartmentalizing whatever is hard until after the holidays. And we would miss the opportunity for restorying that leads to restoration, for all of us.
Restorying can take place in words, or actions, or even a glance of recognition and empathy. If you have ever been the parent whose child is melting down and received a kind word or a smile from the person standing behind you in checkout line, you’ll know that’s “feeling seen” in the best way. A kindly gesture of recognition is one of the easiest forms of restoration we can offer. We can go deeper and listen well for what is needed, offer assistance that is wanted, or advocate where we have influence.
Joseph was already planning to behave as a righteous man would, offering Mary release from their promises without making a big deal about it. A nighttime visit from an angel moved him to go deeper, to embrace a different story, and to restore their relationship.
May we, too, listen to our better angels and offer restoration, because we love God, whose shining face shines restores us, too.
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