Faces

The human brain is quite an intricate and amazing blob. The other morning I was on lookout duty for the bus that picks up our kids in the morning. As I stared out the window searching for that familiar yellow hue, my brain got bored. Instead of keeping post, my eyes drifted and focused on a group of foliage on our neighbour’s property. No, that cluster of trees wasn’t that interesting, but I saw a face. It wasn’t a real face, but my brain formed a face from the highlights and shadows of the trees that was there. Once I saw the face, I could not “unsee” it. It stared back at me as if asking what my problem was.

Then I quickly recalled seeing someone the week previous from across a large parking lot in town. I only saw them for a split second, but my brain sent a message, “you know them”. I looked up again to verify and indeed confirmed that I knew the person. My brain did that, and I wasn’t even trying. At that moment I was focused on something else entirely. It is amazing how our brains can recognize faces, even from a distance.

Despite the fact that time makes its mark on all of us physically, in partnership with stress and perhaps even weight, we are still able recognize someone we know well or had met only once. Our brain filters all of that out and reports back to us in fractions of a second that this person is familiar. It doesn’t even matter if the person is facing us, or in profile. We may not remember the name, but the face is there.

It is a staggering ability when you consider everyone has two eyes, a nose and a mouth. Technically speaking, that is not much to ensure our uniqueness in the world. Even identical twins have slight differences that once the brain locks those in, it is in rare occasion you make a mistake. Despite our shared features, arranged with very slight variations, we can be uniquely identified by those around us. Have you ever recognized features in a stranger and thought, “I wonder if that is so-and-so’s kid”? Were you convinced enough to ask them only to discover it is the case? My wife has been asked several times if she is “Barb’s daughter”. Our brains do that.

There are differing opinions as to just how many different faces our minds can recognize. Some say thousands, others say there is no limit. The psalmist David must have had a similar revelation when he penned the following to God,

“Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.” Psalm 139:14 (NLT)

So, it is hard for me not to accept that God not only sees us, but also knows us. This is not a scientific statement (although an incredible amount of science works behind the scenes to detect slight placements of facial features, etc). I see this more as an artistic statement. The more time and creative energy you put into something, the more you tend to value it. The incredible complexity of our beings speaks to the incredible value that God places on each one of us.

Can you see what God sees? Think about that the next time you look into a mirror. It should put a smile on your face.

(For those who are still wondering; no, the kids did not miss the bus.)

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