Did you know that it is scientifically proven that women make more eye contact in a standard conversation than men do? I find that fascinating. Considering all the other things that are scientifically proven about the differences between men and women and daily life, it isn’t very surprising…but it is fascinating.
My spiritual reading yesterday drove me to pull out my old nonverbal communication book from college. I learned some interesting things about eye contact. What? Oh, you mean you don’t understand why spiritual reading would drive me to eye contact? Well, the book I’m currently reading is called Fervent and the author said some things and I got to thinking about some things and basically, it lead me to this idea of eye contact.
Think about the last conversation you had with somebody. Was there a lot of eye contact? Did you two lock gazes frequently? Now think back to the last deep, serious conversation you had with someone. If that person had avoided eye contact at all costs — checking their watch, their phone, the door — would you feel confident that they had listened to you, that they cared for you, that you mattered to them? Now let me flip this question on its head and ask you something I am somewhat confident you’ve never considered before:
when you talk to God…are you making eye contact?
I know, I know, “what does that even look like?!” Well, to be honest friends, I have no idea. But let’s take time for a minute and consider it. The Bible tells us in 1 Peter 3:12 that “the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer” which actually comes from the book of Psalms where David wrote, “the eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous and his ears toward their cry” (34:15). So what? So, when we are in a relationship with Jesus and seeking, through the power of His Spirit, to do God’s will, then we are considered righteous through Christ’s sacrifice and “the eyes of the Lord are on”…us.
Mine is a God of eye contact. I like that. He knows who He is — how great, how strong, how true, how perfect. But eye contact is attributed to people who are considered more “touch-feely” (pg. 73); so in these passages our God is revealing an emotional, caring being to us. This is why He cares about our requests and why “his ears are open to their prayer”.
This is beautiful and mind-blowing but also…perspective-putting. Puts into…I got confused. What I’m getting at is this: if our God values eye contact enough to do it, He must value it enough to consider it something He deserves from the people He rescued from sin. And our eye contact with our heavenly Father communicates deep truths about our relationship with Him.
“…a person’s self-esteem is related to the amount of eye contact he or she maintains with others relative to the favorability of the message he or she is receiving; for people with high self-esteem, increased eye contact was found in the presence of a positive message, whereas decreased eye contact was found in the presence of a negative message…people with low self-esteem used more eye contact when receiving negative messages than when receiving positive ones.”
-Moore, Hickson, Stacks, pg. 220
In societies where rank and class are still considered highly important, it is actually a social sin for a lower caste person to initiate eye contact with a higher caste person (pg. 23). These things about eye contact are very important for us as Christians.
Y’all, we might should pull out that old dusty Bible and give it a once over once more. According to mine, I am not a slave…a subordinate; according to mine, I am an heir to the kingdom of God (Galatians 4:1-7). Now, that is in no way meant to imply that we are equals with Jesus; what it does mean is this: I am part of the family. I’m a child and a friend…not a lower caste person, not a lesser person. Avoiding eye contact with the God, whose image we are created in, is nothing less than communicating we consider ourselves to be worthless, we consider Him to be worthy beyond access or on the other end of the spectrum, that we consider His mandates to be mere suggestions and that we would refuse to listen to His holy word.
So let’s revisit that earlier question: “what does this even look like”? The trick is, it looks different for everyone. Beth Moore is a strong believer in dropping down on your face in awe of our God when we pray. And this is definitely an acceptable position of prayer. In personal prayer time, I tend to keep my eyes open and my head lifted with my eyes focused on a non-place (you know how you focus on a spot in space where there isn’t really anything to focus on?). The key is not posture; the key is not physical eye contact; the key is our spirit. The key is believing and loving our Lord so much that when we pray, our spirit is sitting at a Soul Starbucks across the table from The Spirit. We make direct eye contact with the Holy Spirit when we pray in worship, in awe, in intercession, and in whole-hearted desperation. When we are in relationship with Jesus and seeking Him in all we do…we are making eye contact with the Holy Spirit.
God has His eyes on the righteous.
Let us return His loving gaze.
*All Scripture from ESV unless otherwise noted!
•Moore, Nina-Jo, and Mark Hickson III, and Don W. Stacks. Nonverbal Communication: Studies and Applications. Oxford University Press, 2010.