Monday, December 19, 2011

Experimenting with Invisibility

It's a staple in the fairy tales: the magic power of invisibility. Would you want it? To wake from the dream or look up from the page is, I think, to realize that invisibility may not bring only power and autonomy but sometimes impotence and pain. The stories of invisibility may illustrate this loss as well. Consider the despair of an Ebenezer Scrooge or George Bailey and the joy both have in being returned to the world where they again speak and act and touch the lives of others.

I’ve written about these matters before. I suppose, in part, that a desire to be heard and seen and known, to be accepted and understood and celebrated are what motivate me to keep a personal blog. I wonder though, where I cross the line between a legitimate, God-given desire to belong and an illegitimate, God-like desire to be worshiped? What can be done to correct this, to put me that place where I can honestly say I’d rather be a doorkeeper in the courts of God than to, you know, be the one up on the stage?

In the last year or so my desire to be acknowledged and valued has come into sharper focus. I'm asking the Lord what he wants to do with this thing. Leaving a town, church, home, etc. where I was a person of some importance and coming to a place where I am more of an unknown brings it up again.

Being among people who have different ways of keeping score has also been humbling. Just a few days ago we went to a kid-parent event where one of Chris’s old swim-team buddies told a story about running into someone else from high school, someone who remembered her well but she didn’t even know who he was because he was not a swimmer. Ouch! What popped into my mind immediately was the time Yvette Bailey in eighth grade slapped me in the hallway outside of art class just for being a white girl. Whoa; how are those things connected? Oh dear. Apparently I've got some unresolved issues... surprise!

Oh, and then here’s Christmas. The time when so many of us want everything to be just perfect – our families, our achievements, our feelings, our budgets, the gifts we’re able to put under the tree and the ones we find there for us. Real life has a way of, you know, not cooperating with such desires.

Here I am getting ready to marry someone who thinks I’m wonderful, yet - himself happy to serve behind the scenes - notices my desire for what he calls celebrity and suggests it may be, um, sin. Huh; yes, well. Perhaps. I don’t want to admit it. I just don’t want to be invisible, that’s all, right? No, let’s be honest, I want to be important. Very important. What am I going to do with this? Lord, what do you want to do?

Then I find myself penciling in another couple items on a mental list of slights from the ministry I serve with (hey, that’s right, “serve”!) and realize I’ve got to lay this thing down before the Lord again. Yes, the terms of my employment are a bit odd; there are a few ways I’m the “one of these people who’s not like the others.” Though I pretty much am the one who came up with the terms, I forget that and feel sorry for myself, as if putting me in different categories or leaving me off lists mean I don’t belong or that I’m invisible, but are either of those things necessarily true?

As I look for God’s perspective on these things I remember other humbling seasons I’ve been through before and think about how all of us want to be humble but who wants the humiliation that it takes to get there?

Well, maybe I’d better turn the corner with this post. It just so happens that there are some practical ways out of this mental-emotional swamp. Unless you are clinically depressed or something, the way out may be pretty easy. I find all I have to do is grab onto the ladders of grace that God so graciously provides.

What are they, for you? Most of mine have to with gratitude. Stop counting disappointments and slights, and look for the blessings, often wrapped up in the same package. Pray. When I’m honest, when I ask God what’s going on and open my eyes to it, I realize how good I’ve got it. I start thanking him for the good stuff. And the "bad" stuff too, actually.

When I’ve got my eyes on him the sun cuts through the dense fog and I get a whole different perspective. Wow. How blessed I am. I feel so much better. Rather than wondering why nobody is worshiping me, I turn and give worship to God to whom alone worship is due. I put on Handel's Messiah or read a psalm or two; I go back to Isaiah 6 or something and my whole perspective changes.

Somehow I don’t feel invisible anymore.

See also: Staying Warm, Keeping Cool, and a Word from Shel Silverstein, Counseling, and Healthy.


Megan Noel said...

i think some of what you, or one, might mistake for desire for celebrity is your desire to use your leadership skills. i guess it would be pretty hard to be an invisible leader, wouldn't it?

Marti said...

Well, I think at its root my desire for celebrity is hubris. But a hunger for influence could be a matter of personality, not character, and the restlessness I have when I feel invisible could be the flip side of a neutral personality trait. Leadership may sometimes be more subtle than flashy but it can't be entirely invisible, can it? And it's true that for one reason or another I have not been able to use the leadership skills I do have, very much, in quite a while. There are good reasons for being "shelved," so I don't want to fight it too hard. But if I keep my eyes open maybe there will be another place for me to be put to work, again.