This is what people say the most after meeting my infant daughter:
“She’s so attentive!”
“Such eye contact!”
“She’s very aware!”
“She’s looking at me so intensely!”
I remember the first time Glorya Joy looked at me. Really looked at me.
Before then, she just looked past me or through me. Better said, she really couldn’t see me at all with her six-inch newborn visibility.
She had just finished marathon nursing, and I lifted her eight-pound body up in the air for a burp. I sat her on my lap facing me, and then her blue eyes solidly met mine.
My stomach weighted down deep. The weight of Glory. I, her one and only Mother, beholding her face beholding mine for the first time.
In that moment, I knew I was no longer caring for a strange creature that somehow came from my womb. She was a human being, and she was seeing me.
Glory’s eyes are bright and soulish, and she does not hide her gaze from others. She is so expressive in her face and voice, but what has intrigued me lately is the way her eyes widen. Her eyes are constantly widening.
As humans, we share physiological traits with other mammals, one of which is the instinct we have to widen our eyes in circumstances that are new or unexpected. We are caught off-guard; we need to take in more data; so our eyes widen. We survey for threat or danger and we fight or flee accordingly. In other words, our eyes widen when we are afraid.
My daughter’s eyes widened all the time. I was concerned.
“Glory, it’s okay. It’s just Mama. We’re in our home right now. Remember the living room? and the light that comes through the windows? There’s Daddy. You’re safe, babe.”
She didn’t seem afraid, though her eyes were opening wide often. My daughter’s baby-eyes would widen at the world, but her smile would always widen next. Still, I wanted her to know she didn’t need to widen her eyes at all. That she didn’t need to be afraid—or nearly so.
A couple months later that it dawned on me she wasn’t widening her eyes in fear. She was widening her eyes in wonder.
My husband and I were out together, and he was parallel-parking our car. It was Michigan in the endless winter, so it’s freezing rain and gray and gross out, and he’s on his third attempt. I’m stressed. We’re holding up a line of cars now, and I’m looking at him cranking the wheel yet again, looking at the tight spot we’re trying to cram into, looking at all the impatient cars stopped behind us.
And I close my eyes.
I allow a long exhale. My breathing slows. My body softens. I practice trust. A moment later, with my eyes still closed, I feel us park. We made it, even without my wide-eyed watching.
My eyes betray my hypervigilance. Looking from place-to-place to judge if it’s safe… looking from face-to-face to see if I’m accepted… straining to see if I belong… lowering my eyes in uncertainty or sometimes shame…. One of my favorite parts of practicing yoga is the invitation to “let the muscles in your eyes relax.” It’s so relieving.
What would it be like to have eyes that are at rest, eyes that are trusting of the world and the faces in it?
The Lord is giving me opportunity to experiment with trust. I have recently left the city and church I have called home for nearly fifteen years as well as the only state I have ever lived in. I have immigrated to Canada with my husband, my baby, and a band of like-minded allies to proclaim in the city of Toronto that Jesus restores wonder. He puts our bodies at rest, lifts our faces, and makes our eyes shine.
I have lately seen Jesus take my guarded eyes and call them to trust— even, in moments, to wonder. Somehow, in my family, the Lord is growing a baby who knows she is safe, so that she look her world full in the face. She has dynamic, dancing eyes. A neighbor the other day said of Glory, “She doesn’t know fear yet, does she?”
won·der | \ ˈwən-dər \
- a feeling of surprise mingled with admiration, caused by something beautiful, unexpected, unfamiliar, or inexplicable.
- desire or be curious to know something.
- feel admiration and amazement; marvel.
What would it be like to have eyes free to widen in wonder at our Father’s world? There is so much to behold.
Jessie is newly Canadian. She transplanted with her family and friends from America to Toronto to plant microchurches in the city. Jessie is a mother and private practice counselor who specializes in toddler scooter-training and trauma recovery, respectively. Check out her professional website at journeywithjessie.ca.