“For He has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted neither has He hidden His face from him, but when he cried to Him, He heard.” (Amplified Bible)
Have you ever felt invisible?
Have you ever wondered if your voice was heard? Have you ever wondered if you had drawn the short straw? Said the wrong thing? Were born at the wrong time? Have you ever been knocked down and got back up again, dusted yourself off and started again? Have you ever believed that the year ahead of you would be the best year? The one you’ve been waiting for, all of your life? Have you ever wondered why, when you seem to be doing everything right why nothing turned out at all?
Have you ever felt invisible?
I woke up early the other day, as is my habit, it seems. In my dream like state I could see the children I teach getting off the floor holding their reward books that they had filled with stickers, walking mesmerized towards their trays where these books are stored. Some of them were sniffing the pages because they had reached the highest honor, the ‘scratch and sniff’ sticker status and they were showing their peers, discussing the scent, counting the squares until they would get one again.
As I boiled the kettle I thought about the children who still sat upright on the floor waiting to be noticed, waiting to be rewarded, waiting for their seal of approval from me. We just want to belong don’t we? We want our names to be connected with success, we want to be encouraged and we want to fit in. We don’t want to be sidelined, reprimanded, taken out, sent to another room.
When your daughter gets diagnosed with a life threatening illness it feels like you have been taken out for good. You can’t do what you used to do. You no longer conform to the social delights that life used to offer.
Instead you sit by her bed, you watch her hair fall out, you watch her face change from the effects of prednisone, you see the texture of her skin change, you watch the tremors in her hands, you see the elasticity leave her skin through sudden weight loss, you watch her try to make herself look pretty when she goes out with friends, you listen to her slurred words, you watch as sheer exhaustion prevents her from going out at all, you pray to God that the three days without a memory are just a passing thing induced by drugs, you pray that the paralyzed vocal cords miraculously vibrate again, you pray that all the attacks against her somehow make her stronger and that she never gives up the fight.
Everyday your heart breaks a little bit more as you wonder how much longer, how much further, how much more you will loose.
You watch others make their way to the teacher to get another sticker. You ask them for a smell. You tell them it’s beautiful and you think, “Wow, they really must be good to be rewarded like that.” Sometimes you feel like you might just disappear altogether.
As I pour the boiling water over my tea bag I decide to investigate the sticker books. To try to discover if I have overlooked anyone and if I have I will make amends. I will show them that I’ve seen them, embraced the individual gifts that they bring to my room.
I shared this with Sam. We love to talk about the children, the psychology of the classroom, the changes in the curriculum since she was at school.
“I was never a ‘stand out’ she tells me. I was always just average. I never got student of the week, a citizenship award, a most improved or an academic achievement award.”
“I’m the same,” I tell her. “I’m average too.”
All week long I have been thinking about value and conformity. Why do we value the assembly line, the cookie cutter, the simple, compliant life? Why do we embrace the status quo? Weren’t we designed to be world changers?
Deep inside me, under layers of disappointments, under the sting of regret, beneath the pressure of grief, a flame flickers. It never goes out. I can feel the heat as it burns inside me. It is strong in hope and even the anguish of my tears cannot put out this flame.
I’m watching through the lens of my life and I can see that I was never compliant really. Even on my first day of school I was placed on the time out chair at the front of the room. I’ve never really just accepted what they told me was true. I liked to investigate and know for myself. I came to salvation through investigating and I have never looked back since that day in my bedroom when I was 17. That day I surrendered my life, it was real.
My passion for God has caught me out at times. I’ve been opinionated, I’ve been out spoken, and I’ve let me get in the way. I have kids like that in my class. They call out instead of listening, they forget to put up their hand and I remind them that it isn’t helpful to the rest of the class if they continue to stand up and speak out of turn. To be honest, I like these kids. I think that they might be world changers and so I tell them I understand that it’s hard, I give them another chance to conform.
Like them, I wonder if God might be teaching me to behave as well. Maybe He is just waiting for me to sit still long enough to hear His wisdom. Maybe He is preparing me for the day when my voice can be heard. Maybe He is taking my life and coating the pain with grace like honey, sweet to taste.
Maybe he’ll make a line through the ‘get it perfectly right kids,’ the good kids at the front, maybe one day I’ll have something worth saying, something worth listening to, a message that doesn’t sound like me at all.
L.B. Cowman writes: “John the Baptist never performed a miracle, but Jesus said of him. “Among those born of women there is no one greater.” (Luke 7:28). His mission was to be a ‘witness to the light.’ (John 1:8). John was content to be only a voice if it caused people to think of Christ.
Be willing to be only a voice that is heard but not seen or a mirror whose glass the eye cannot see because it is reflecting the brilliant glory of the Son. Be willing to be a breeze that arises just before daylight, saying, “The dawn! The dawn!” and then fades away.”