New Mexico, July 2001. We were there on a mission trip; it was my last before I headed off to college in the fall. I was worn out – worn out from the heat, from all the talk of transition, from having to say goodbye one more time to the people I love. I was worn out because even though I was an extrovert, I needed to be alone in the solace of the southwest, in the space between teenagedom and “adulthood,” in the realization that everything was about to change.
She knew that. She always seemed to know what I needed. She saw me – me and all of my idiosyncrasies (of which there are many). Katherine is a bright and deeply kind woman who nurtured the youth of our church with the grace of Jesus Christ and the fortitude of Deborah. She was and is a pastor in every sense. I knew it then, but I know it now even more, especially when I think back to that summer.
I should’ve been working harder but I couldn’t seem to take the camera away from my eye. It was my crutch but also my lens. I needed it to see the world before me and to make sense of it before I left it for the journey ahead. And for some reason, Katherine allowed me to take pictures upon pictures. Black-and-white film rolls littered by backpack. I was carnivorous. As a pastor to youth now, I find her patience remarkable. But she saw in me something of a need – a need to step away, to observe, to just be in whatever creative space I could build.
A particular moment crowned them all. It was that part of a trip when everyone was annoyed with everyone else. Don’t lie to yourself – you know when I mean. We were visiting a site in a neighboring town that allowed cameras to enter at the low, low price of $30 a pop. I saw the sign and started to turn to put my camera in the van, my lenses weighing heavy on my lowered neck. Katherine stopped me and said, “You’re fine. I already paid for you.” My heart delighted. Delighted isn’t even the word because I know no other word for how completely known and satisfied and fulfilled I felt. Katherine knew I needed those moments, just me and my camera, my eye and the world. She knew that without them, I would feel lost. She saw me and for that, I thank her with all my high school and now pastor heart.
With such a lesson in paying attention, I feel I have no choice but to practice such observance of people and their needs. I am aware enough to know I cannot meet all the needs of all the people in all the places I serve, but I can start by seeing and making space for those needs when I can. Katherine’s heart showed me God’s own vision for my life. It changed me deeply for in her keenness, I felt known by the Holy One. So here is my prayer tonight: might my heart be a lens for others. Might we all see so that others might be seen. Might we stop and make space for one another to be whom God made us to be. Amen.
Taylor Lewis Guthrie Hartman is the Associate Pastor for Youth Ministry at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Durham, NC. She loves preaching, photography, mechanical pencils in planners, long names, children’s books, her hometown of Louisville, and serving Jesus Christ. She hopes to settle down in Durham as long as she can (as does her husband Blair and their dog Addie Patterson).