Much of my life I’ve felt invisible. Believed the lie that I’m so insignificant, so unimportant to others that I might as well be thin air for them to peer through.
And all the while, I’ve longed to be peered into, to be seen.
That’s how I lived in elementary school, when I got picked last every. single. time. That’s how I existed in middle school, with frizzy hair and glasses, keeping my head down, my mouth shut. That’s how I functioned in high school, feeling forgotten anytime I found myself without a steady boyfriend. Forgotten. Invisible. Unimportant.
I didn’t feel seen. Have you ever felt like that? I was desperate to be seen, not for my appearance or my accomplishments, but seen for my inner being, for who I was beneath the veneer.
Several years ago, I found myself at an orientation weekend for new leaders preparing to lead mission trips for teenagers. I went primarily to support my husband’s dream, to understand what drove him to be interested in leading a mission trip. I went alone, leaving Steve and the kids at home for two whole days. And I knew no one. Not a soul.
I arrived early, because, well, that’s what I do. And, sitting in the cafeteria on a campus designed to raise up and train college-aged kids, I found myself surrounded by 18, 19, and 20-year-olds. I found a table and sat with my lunch and a book, totally content to be alone when a girl approached me. She was easily ten years younger than my 28-year-old self.
“Hi! How’re you doing?” she said. Caught off guard by being noticed, I replied and we chatted for a minute or two. Then she asked if she could pray for me. What? Ok, sure!
Then she smiled, wished me a great day and went on her way. I sat there smiling, uplifted, and a little dumbfounded that she’d seen me in the first place and had been so comfortable starting a conversation with me. This was only the first of many such interactions with the interns on campus that weekend.
But, when I arrived in the main building for orientation to begin, I started to look around with new eyes. Rather than being so focused on feeling alone and forgotten, I started to look around for other people who appeared to be alone or out of their element.
It wasn’t easy for me at all, but I forced myself to start conversations, approach these strangers. Very quickly, I realized that I wasn’t the only one who felt unseen. And even faster, I noticed how appreciated a kind word was. How impacting simple eye contact could be.
I may not have seen into their souls to know their deepest depths in that moment. But by simply looking in their eyes, reaching out for a handshake, and offering an invitation to come sit with me, I saw incredible change. Discomfort shifted to relaxation. Uncertainty was exchanged for comfort. It was a beautiful thing!
Over the years, I’ve continued, though it’s still not natural for me to reach out to strangers and say hi. But it’s getting easier every time. And nearly every time I do, I’m pleasantly surprised at what happens: a smile, a look of relief, perhaps a new friendship.
All those years I felt unseen because people ignored me…all that time I spent believing the lie that I ultimately didn’t matter…perhaps people didn’t truly see me. But God did.
He never forgot me. He saw me. He declared me priceless.
And as I believe with ever-deepening conviction that these things are true, that the lie is a lie, I can see with fresh eyes when I look at others. Growing more confident in who He declares me to be helps me reach beyond myself to see the beauty and value in others. God’s perspective becomes my own when I begin to look at others the way He sees them…precious, priceless, of inestimable value.
Where are you at today? Are you feeling unseen? He sees you. He does!
Can you see others today through His perspective? In trusting that you are seen, will you challenge yourself to see those around you with fresh eyes?