I'm not good at making eye contact. I don't know why. I don't know if no one ever made it with me, or if I heard that "the eyes are the window to the soul" and decided I didn't want just anyone peering into my soul, or if it became a way to stay on the periphery, to not be noticed because then no one would hurt me.
Whatever the reason, I'm making a concerted effort to look in my daughter's eyes these days. I want to see her soul, and I want her to see mine. And I don't want her growing up without knowing how to hold someone's eyes. I don't want her to always wonder when she should look away and if she did it too soon.
Kids need eye contact. I think I read that somewhere, though I can't find the source anywhere. But they do need it, nonetheless. I don't need a scientist to tell me that (though I appreciate it when they back me up) - I know it in my soul. Soul-deep, she needs someone to look into her eyes, to see her, and to not turn away, not ever.
And so I look into her eyes when we play. Back and forth in the swing, I hold her eyes with mine and I smile. Under the sheet-tent, I soak in all the pure blueness of those eyes, and I marvel again that they stayed newborn-violet-blue all these months. From across the yard and across the room, I watch her until her eyes meet mine and she smiles.
I want to give her so much with my eyes. I want to look and look, to tell her somehow that it doesn't matter what I see there, I love her and I will always want to look in her eyes. I want her to know that she's held and loved and precious, even when she's not being good or having a tough day.
But no matter what I give her, she gives me so much more. I can't quite explain what I see there, but I think it goes something like this, "You're my mama. I know you, because you're my mama. Now I'm here and you're here and there's nothing else we need, just now."
Those eyes and their message worm their way into my soul and, where I used to have to remind myself to look into her eyes and let us both rest there, now I find myself seeking them out. We give and receive in that place, that place no one else can touch, and it forges a bond between us that's different from all the other bonds we have. It's a bond I'd have missed if I'd never thought to meet her eyes.
I can't help but wonder, when I think about those eyes and the messages we send there, what it would be like to look into Jesus' eyes. I remember a story I once heard, about a farmer who slipped into the back of the small, local, Catholic church at the end of each working day and stared at the crucifix. When the priest finally asked him what he was doing, he said, "I come in here, and I look at him and he looks back at me."
There's something to the face-to-face-ness of heaven that will heal so much, I think. In fact, sometimes I wonder if that's the moment that some people call Purgatory, the moment when we lose the stain we carry on this earth, when we finally give up all the garbage once and for all.
There's power in a gaze, a power I've avoided most of my life. And yet I think I could look Jesus in the eye, at least for part of a second, just to see what would happen. Because he is love, and I don't think I could live having passed that chance by.