He was left at the temple gate.
A lame man. A man unnoticed. Invisible, even. Unseemly and unattractive. And it’s at this gate, the one that was literally named Beautiful, that he would be placed to beg of worshippers going to and from the temple.
Acts 3:4 tells the story, and it’s a dear one. Because it’s in this verse that Peter and John change everything for one life… with a single look.
And fixing his eyes on him, with John, Peter said, “Look at us.” So he gave them his attention. —Acts 3:4 (NKJV)
There’s so much heart packed in those few words. The unseen man was begging without looking up. His mannerisms were formed around the fact that he was the very opposite of beautiful. And being at a gate that bore the name, he knew it full well.
The man was left at the gate, Scripture tells us. And I have to wonder by whom? His family? Friends? And how often was he carried and laid there? Every day? How many pairs of feet walked by him, reminding him that he was not nearly enough? He was looking down, this unseen man. He wasn’t connecting. He wasn’t worthy to look up.
He wasn’t worthy.
Peter’s first act of caring for the man wasn’t to heal his body (though that came later) — it was to heal the neglect of his soul.
Translations say that Peter “Looked him straight in the eye” (MSG) and “Peter directed his gaze at him.” (ESV)
In that instant, the unseen became the known.
Have you ever been left at the gate, feeling that though you’re trying with every breath of your soul, you just can’t measure up to standards around you? I’m wondering if the gate would have a congregation of us, the unseen and broken, the overlooked in ministries, the hurt in schools, homes, faith communities…
I wonder if there would be moms there who are loving on their families the best way they know how, but feel that they just don’t measure up.
Maybe the broken would be there. The beaten down by life. The ones whose relationships have crumbled. Whose finances or health have withered on the vine. Whose calling isn’t clear and and whose calendar pulls them through days without direction or contentment.
Perhaps some of our sisters in the faith who have a less-than-beautiful past would take up space at the gate. The ones whose with mistakes if known, would make them unclean, ill-formed, unattractive and unseen to others.
A packed schedule, the “busy” and pain and apathy and constant failures… they own us after a while. So we go on through our days as pairs of feet pass, careful not to look anyone in the eye.
In Isaiah 58:12, God is called the Repairer of Broken Walls and the Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.
His love is beautiful. And perfect. And willing to look us in the eye. He’s named for One who restores as we lay in the streets! But He doesn’t leave us at the gate. Like Peter in Acts 3:6-11, He heals our infirms — the broken heart walls first — and then works on the rest. And so this man at the gate called Beautiful was seen one day. Maybe for the first time. He was seen and was told to rise up and walk.
And like us, he had a choice.
He didn’t just rise. He is recorded as leaping up. Leaping up, but only after he’d first looked up.
Soon this unseen man is running through that Beautiful gate and praising God to anyone who would listen inside the temple walls. He held on to Peter and John, thanking them for healing — for seeing the unseen. And then after how many days and how many pairs of feet that walked by without notice, Scripture tells us that people “…saw the man and were amazed.”
Do our words speak life? Do we notice the broken walls all around us, or are we leaving hearts at the gate? Because for the life of me, I can’t ignore what my words could do to someone else, or how deeply neglect could cut. What it must have felt like to have been in that man’s shoes! To have been overlooked. Every day, even? To have the constant reminder that he was, and never could be, enough.
Friends — wherever you are today, whether words that cut or days that stifle or less-than-beautiful pasts cling to you — to live unseen is not who you are. It’s not your worth, to be the opposite of Beautiful. God sees you. Know that. Maybe you haven’t heard it in a while. Maybe not ever.
Maybe you just need one voice to say, Look up. Because you’re not the unseen anymore.