I See You Seeing Me: Finding God in “Avatar”

I recently was very moved when I saw James Cameron’s stunning “Avatar”. I just had sat through a sermon that morning about the text from Genesis 16 about the birth of Ishmael by Hagar. If you are not familiar with the story, or have forgotten this disturbing story from your childhood flannel graph in Sunday School, let me recount it.

Sarah was old and barren and could not bear a child for Abraham, so they decided to take life into their own control and force what God promised would come as a gift to them (we never do this, of course). In their attempt to circumvent God, Sarah proposed that Abraham sleep with Sarah’s helper Hagar and bear a child — the first surrogate in Judeo-Christian history. Hagar sleeps with Abraham and “knows” him, and Hagar bears a child that they name Ishmael. Not surprisingly, Ishmael becomes the source of derision and jealousy in Abraham’s house, and Hagar soon finds herself cast out to wonder in the wilderness alone and with a son. She feels removed from the family of blessing, and she is cut off from everything that made her life secure and good. Now she is left alone and with the responsibility of a child.

It is in the midst of this that an angel of the Lord appears to her, and the angel assures her that she is not alone at all. God is ever present to even redeem the messes of our lives, and to make good on His promise even though we tried to force it ourselves. God especially is with those who are lowly, who are alone, and who have been cut off from their security, whether it’s their family, or their church, or their homeland. The angel says to her,

“She gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.” That is why the well was called Beer Lahai Roi; it is still there, between Kadesh and Bered.”

There is no more foundational security in life than to know that we are not alone and that someone sees us. From our birth, we long to see our mother’s face, and to know that she will not leave us. Eventually she does, and she cannot be there for us at all times. So we still long to The Face who still sees us and who will not leave us. The ultimate security is in knowing that the One who created us is also the one who still sees us. When it seems that our life is over, or that we will not find our way again, there is a plan still unfolding for us that will become a place of blessing and paradise because God sees us — and the greatest joy and love comes when we finally see God seeing us.

So it was with this in mind that I saw “Avatar” immediately after this sermon. And as the two Avatars fall in love as Jake is rescued by Naytiri, she looks at him — an angry and wounded man — and says, “I see you.” And he responds to her, “I see you seeing me.” Spiritual themes, prayers to God, and pictures of paradise already were present throughout the film, and then this parallel quote from the Genesis story stunned me so that God became very present to me as I watched the film. In our moments of brokenness and woundedness, God sees us, and the greatest moment of our existence will be when we too see God. In the last scene of the film before the credits roll, the eyes of the dead Jake open as his lover Naytiri looks at him, and we are awakened to the possibility of resurrection in this paradise.

If that wasn’t enough, Leona Lewis sings the final “hymn” of the film as the credits roll, “I See You”:

I see you
I see you
Walking through a dream
I see you
My light in darkness breathing hope of new life
Now I live through you and you through me
I pray in my heart that this dream never ends
I see me through your eyes

Living through life flying high
Your life shines the way into paradise
So I offer my life as a sacrifice
I live through your love
You teach me how to see

All that’s beautiful
My senses touch your word I never pictured
Now I give my hope to you
I surrender
I pray in my heart that this world never ends
I see me through your eyes.”

“Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” (I Cor. 13:12)

3 Responses to “I See You Seeing Me: Finding God in “Avatar””
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