I recently came across an interesting Zulu word that (as I understand) has no English equivalent. The word is “sawubona” (sah-wu-BOHN-ah). It simply means, “I see you.” Of course, it does not mean on the surface only what we see. It has to do with the value of a person and how much they are worth in the eyes of the speaker. It is, as one man said, a statement of seeing “your hopes, your dreams, where you came from and where you’re going.” I cannot help but think of God in His love and tenderness, saying in His very nature toward us, “sawubona.” How does He say it?
He hears and listens when we cry and when we are discouraged. Hagar, the handmaid of Sarah, was thrown out of the house and was afraid that would mean the end of her life (Gen. 16:6-14). The Angel of the Lord came and reassured her that “the Lord has heard your affliction” (Gen. 16:11). He is the God who sees when we cry and when we are discouraged...and He hears and cares (1 Pet. 5:7). Sawubona.
He sees and knows our habits, thoughts, and words better than we know them ourselves. Psalm 139 is one of the greatest passages on the omniscience (all-knowing) and omnipresence (“everywhere-ness”) of God. As the psalmist talks about God and what He knows about him, it is a wonderful thing, and yet a fearful thing, that He sees all of our thoughts and there is nothing hidden from His sight (Ps. 139:1-4). What a comfort to know that He sees us truly and knows us truly, and yet, in spite of that still loves us deeply and truly (Rom. 5:6-11). Sawubona.
He sees and knows He alone can answer our soul’s deepest needs. God saw from before He created the world that we would need a Savior (2 Tim. 1:9; Tit. 1:2). He knows how empty our lives and souls will become if we choose not to seek Him (Rom. 1:18-ff). He sees and knows that Jesus Christ is the solution no matter the sins that plague us.
He sees and knows we need to worship Him as the sovereign God—for His glory and for our good. The God who sees accepts us through the sacrifice of His Son (1Jn. 1:1-4). Sawubona.
If God demonstrates that kind of love and concern for us, if He still loves and cares for us even when He can see what’s going on inside us, how much should we “see” others and try to love and value them (Jas. 2:8)? What a challenge!
Andy Baker is the pulpit minister at the Graeber Road church of Christ. You can reach him at email@example.com.