To Be Seen

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M_FionaWhen I was seventeen, our church youth group was allowed to lead one of the evening services. We came from two small traditional Anglican churches in neighbouring Oxfordshire villages, but we’d been spending our Easter and summer vacations at massive charismatic youth camps, sleeping in tents for short hours in between all night worship sessions and long afternoons discussing all aspects of theology and Christian living on the grass.

I was in the in-between year in that youth group. There had been a big group of Christian teens a few years older than me, who’d adopted me as the little sister. They’d all left for gap year and University now, and while I waited my turn to fly the nest, the youth group filled up with younger members, mostly friends of my little sister.

It could have been an isolating couple of years. I had few Christian friends at school and no one to connect with at church.

But my youth leader saw me. She saw that awkward place I was in and took action. I was drafted in as a junior youth leader, invited to their planning meetings, to give my thoughts, to pray for the work in the youth group, to come alongside the girls my sister’s age and be an encouragement to them.

I was still finding my way at seventeen—growing out of the easy accepting faith of a child, but not quite into the maturity of an adult. I was passionate about so much, but so unsure how it all fit together. I loved the church, but I wasn’t always sure I belonged.

In our youth-led services, we were normally allowed to plan and lead everything except the sermon, which the vicar would still give. This time, for unknown reasons, he handed the teaching over to us too. It was a big opportunity and there was excitement in our group as we sat down to plan it all out. It was decided we’d split the teaching time in two, so that two of the group got the chance to preach a shorter sermon. Another boy a year younger than me asked to do one—he already has his mind set on going into church work so this was good practise.

And so who would do the other sermon? I sat with the group, wondering who it would be when all eyes turned to look in my direction and I heard the voice of my youth leader say, “well I think it should be Fiona, right?”

I’d never considered preaching. I loved leading the small group, loved coming alongside the younger girls to encourage them and challenge them. And I loved listening to the sermons, taking copious notes in my neat teenage handwriting to go home and look up the answers to my questions later on.

But preach myself?

Somehow I heard myself agreeing. I’m not sure I was given much choice. The usual sense of anxiety began rising in my chest straight away as I thought of all the people I’d be speaking in front of, the idea of standing behind that lectern and saying my own words. What if I completely sucked? What if I said something heretical and they booed me out of the church? What if I stuttered and no one understood what I was trying to say? What if I couldn’t get any words out at all?

Then I spied our youth leader across the church hall, grinning proudly at me across the room and felt a gentle blanket of assurance settle in me and covering over that swelling anxiety. She saw me and she thought I could do this. So maybe I could…

A few weeks later, I stood behind that lectern and spoke for ten minutes to our small congregation, which felt in that moment like a thousand-strong revival hall. My palms were sweating, my hands and voice shook. But as I started telling my story—the story of a Father’s love, the confidence we find to keep climbing up the mountainside, even when it’s tough, because of his strong presence at our side—the fear slipped away and was replaced with something else: joy.

It would be seven more years before anyone asked me to lead again—to teach a study, come alongside other believers in their walk, stand up and preach. In those seven years I often wondered if I had imagined that feeling, the joy that swept through me when I spoke the words I felt the Spirit had given me. I convinced myself that perhaps it wasn’t the lightning moment I had thought it was at the time. My path must lay in a different direction.

Until one day, in a cafe in Brussels, a pastor sat across the table from me, small cups of strong coffee in our hands, and he looked at me and asked me what I was really passionate about. And words started spilling out that I hadn’t planned, about my desire to walk alongside people as they journeyed in faith, my love for the Bible, my hope that I could somehow speak truth and grace into lives and see them transformed.

And he saw me in that moment. And he invited me to be part of the teaching team.

There I found people to train me, to challenge me. People who believed in me and took risks in me and my gifts until I started to believe the image of myself that they saw and called out.

When I look back, it was these two moments that were most pivotal in taking me forward into the calling God had for me, a calling I’m still figuring out step by tentative step. And it was little that I did. I was only vaguely aware of the Spirit whispers in me, but others heard them. Others saw me and chose to empower me.

Now it’s my prayer too, that I’d have eyes to see, to see the gifting in people that they don’t yet fully understand themselves. That I might be the one to spot the seed in the fertile soil and pour on the refreshing water of encouragement, bring the sunshine warmth of acceptance and support as that little seed grows into a strong and fruitful tree.

May I always have eyes to see, just as I was seen.

___________________

Image credit: David Morris

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Fiona Koefoed-Jespersen
Fiona lives in London with her Danish husband and her two young children. She is determinedly seeking the sacred in the ordinary, learning to see that even the most mundane moments of her day can be spiritual if she wakes up to the Divine in those places. She is in training to become a Spiritual Director, and baking is her favourite spiritual practice. You can follow her through her blog at fionalynne.com.
Fiona Koefoed-Jespersen
Fiona Koefoed-Jespersen

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Comments

  1. Fiona that buoyed my spirit. I have been blessed many times with people who see me. Then, I’ve faced seasons, long seasons, where the person I most longed for and needed to see me, seems blind to me. It’s hard to cling to the knowledge of God’s gifts in me when I’m far from the affirmation of family and friends. I know that in this season God is tender and faithful and that He calls me to BELIEVE Him and to serve Him with my gifts. Believing Him is the sanctuary of my soul.

    • fiona lynne says:

      Oh Abby, how hard that is when we’re in an affirmation desert. I love that last line. Sanctuary indeed.

  2. Julie Cochrane says:

    Wonderful, Fiona. Those moments of vision and affirmation, messengers from an ever-attentive God… thank you for this beautiful reminder to always look for God at work in others, and in ourselves. I would love to have been in that little congregation all those years ago – I think I might have seen Jesus smiling proudly and cheering you on!

    • fiona lynne says:

      I love thinking of them as messengers! That’s a beautiful thought. And how I need to hear a reminder that he smiles proudly at me…

  3. Finally just getting to this now, but SO GLAD I DID. I relate to it on so many levels. I was about the same age when I shared my testimony (read: preached a sermon) in front of my home church congregation. Like you, I felt the fire burn in my breast at every word. After it was over, a young, college-age man who was on staff with Campus Crusade for Christ took me aside and told me he wondered if I would consider full-time Christian ministry as a path for my life. To this day, I treasure the moment as among my most influential. And most empowering.

    Thank you for sharing, Fiona. Thank you for helping me remember. (Some days I need it.)

    • fiona lynne says:

      Kelli, thanks for sharing that part of your story. How wonderful to have had that positive experience early on. And yes, how often we need those memories to remind us of what is true in us… x

  4. mkholmberg says:

    I LOVE this, Fiona! The first time someone saw a teaching gift in me, I didn’t recognize it — or use it again — for years. Then, God threw that mantle upon me again through a different person seeing it in me. So good. What a privilege! One I, too, cherish. May He always be the source and destination for your service. Thanks for sharing your story!

    • fiona lynne says:

      Thank you so much. It’s so good to hear that this has been other women’s experience too!

  5. pastordt says:

    What Idelette said – yes, yes!! Once we let the debate fall away and ask God to give us eyes to see, all kinds of lovely surprises await! I’m so grateful those people saw you and called out God’s gifts in you, Fiona. I was a lot older than you when it happened for me, but still – it was the voices of those who saw me that encouraged me enough to take that first jittery step into the seminary admissions office. This is just lovely – thanks very much, indeed.

    • fiona lynne says:

      Thank you. I find it such an encouragement to know it can happen any time, that being seen, that it is never too late, God is never finished with us. And amen to those jittery first steps!

  6. Saskia Wishart says:

    Ahhhh I love this Fiona – Eyes to See… what a prayer!

    Next time you are preaching in Lux, let me know, I am hopping on a train ;)!

    Xx

    • fiona lynne says:

      Palm Sunday 🙂 And then I take a break until baby is settled in. (But you are ALWAYS welcome!) xx

  7. Nicole A. Joshua says:

    What beautiful, life-giving grace-soaked words:
    “Now it’s my prayer too, that I’d have eyes to see, to see the gifting in people that they don’t yet fully understand themselves. That I might be the one to spot the seed in the fertile soil and pour on the refreshing water of encouragement, bring the sunshine warmth of acceptance and support as that little seed grows into a strong and fruitful tree. May I always have eyes to see, just as I was seen.”
    Thank you Fiona. Thank you for speaking words that resonate deep with the space I’m in.

  8. Claire De Boer cjdeboer says:

    Thank GOD for those people who saw you Fiona. What a wonderful blessing from God. He saw the potential in you; He heard your hopes and dreams and He made sure that others saw and heard you too. I LOVE that you’re preaching and that your presence is inspiring so many other young women to do the same. xo

    • fiona lynne says:

      It still surprises me that I’m here, that God is still putting me in these places, choosing to use me. But it’s a wonderful feeling too, when you’re in that space where gifts meet growth. And I see you calling out gifts in so many women around you. It’s a precious precious thing x

  9. Awesome. Love, one of those ‘big brothers’ x

  10. Erin Wilson says:

    Oh, you made me cry. You show so well both the beautiful, tender willingness to be seen, as well as the potent, lovely power in seeing others. It’s really quite amazing when you think about it…I have no doubt that the most amazing changes in this world have happened as a direct result of speaking encouragement into another’s life. So beautiful!

    • Sarah Joslyn Sarah Joslyn says:

      Yes. Exactly what Erin said. Love this Fiona.

    • fiona lynne says:

      Erin, what a beautiful response. I think it takes courage to be seen, some days more than others. Because there’s so much risk in stepping into a calling. I love how often in the letters of the New Testament the writers advised the church to ENCOURAGE each other. Oh how powerful it is!

  11. Anne-Marie says:

    Hi Fiona! Lovely. I have inadvertently become a support for a handful of young women and mostly not church related. It’s really wonderful! But I’m more of an encourager. Love this thought of intently looking to help speak into possibilities and open horizons. Thank you for your eyes on this.

    • fiona lynne says:

      What a blessing it must be to those young women to have you speaking that support and encouragement into their lives! x

  12. Helen Burns Helen Burns says:

    “She saw me and she thought I could do this. So maybe I could…’…these words are speaking so loudly to me right now and I am so inspired to always look for the ‘one’… the one that needs a nudge, a nod of approval, an invitation. Thank you for this beautiful post. I have needed every word and I can’t wait to share it with our youth team at church to help inspire them and to be the ones to inspire others.

    Much love and many thanks,

    Helen xo

    • fiona lynne says:

      Thank you so much, Helen. Youth leaders are I’m sure one of the groups most in need of encouragement themselves! To know that their words can have lasting significance in a young person’s life, even when the seeds sown don’t blossom for many years. I’m forever grateful for mine. x

  13. Naomi Williams says:

    “That I might be the one to spot the seed in the fertile soil and pour on the refreshing water of encouragement, bring the sunshine warmth of acceptance and support as that little seed grows into a strong and fruitful tree. May I always have eyes to see, just as I was seen.”

    I think you already have this beautiful gift Fiona 🙂 So wonderful to see what God has done with those seeds sown by the people who saw you, and now by you in turn.

  14. Bev Murrill says:

    I had tears in my eyes as i read the second half of this blog, Fiona. I believe the passion of the heart of Jesus for His body is that there would be those who ‘see’ and those who respond. Thank God you have had two who have seen you, and that you have been willing to respond. It is in that way that we will see His Kingdom come, His will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. For we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power comes from Him and not from us… I’d love to hear you speak. Maybe one day… xx

    • fiona lynne says:

      Thank you so much, Bev. I was just thinking of that treasure in jars of clay verse yesterday at our Ash Wednesday service so I love that you mentioned it again. It’s amazing to see what God can do with us, these dust-made people x

  15. Amazing! I love this so much, Fiona.

    I just love how much strength, beauty and power there is on THIS side of the gender debates. I love how these two people saw your gifts and called them out.

    Life, life, LIFE. I just love this.

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  1. To Be Seen says:

    […] writing at She Loves Magazine today, about some of the most significant moments in my life, when other people saw in me what I […]

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