When I was growing up, and even into adulthood, one of my main struggles was with feeling like I was invisible. There are several stories I could tell about how that message was presented and reinforced in my life – some one time events and others ongoing situations that continually reminded me that my existence was not important enough to be acknowledged. One of those ongoing situations was Christmas Eve with my family.
For as long as I can remember, my family spent Christmas Eve with my dad’s side of the family, and we spent Christmas Day with my mom’s family. My dad had a large family – seven sisters and two brothers (plus my dad’s brother who died at a young age). My dad fell close to the middle so I had some cousins that were my age and quite a few second cousins that were around the same age. Until sixth or seventh grade, we would go to my aunt’s house every Christmas Eve. My dad’s family would come and go throughout the evening, and most of them were people I would only see on Christmas Eve. My cousin and I would look at each other as people came in and ask, “Do you know who that is? Which sister/brother do they belong to?” When I was in junior high, my aunt and uncle got transferred and had to move a couple of hours away. That’s when we started hosting Christmas Eve at our house. Because I am so uncomfortable around people I don’t really know, I could have easily chosen to hide away in my room all night. Some years, I would leave for a bit to go to a Christmas Eve service just to not have to be in that environment. But for the most part, I would sit at the little island in our kitchen and just listen to the conversation that was pretty much the same each year. How many times had each sibling been married/divorced? Which spouse came in what order? Which kids belong to which spouse? There was something else that was pretty much the same each year. I could sit at that island the entire night, and not one person would say a single word to me. I would guess that if you asked most of them, including my immediate family, they would say that I was the ‘quiet’ one so they didn’t want to pressure me to talk, but it just reinforced how little my family actually knew me and how little I really mattered. I was invisible in my own home, even when I put myself in the middle of the ‘action’.
That feeling of invisibility has haunted me most of my life, and though I still struggle with it from time to time, I have found myself feeling much more visible in the last year. I haven’t spent a lot of time thinking about why that is. I went through HeartChange and met some awesome people that I consider family, and they have shown me what belonging and acceptance and grace truly look like. It made sense that those things would help me to feel more visible. Last week, I realized that there is more to it than that. Those things are important, but I was missing something God wanted me to see. I was at a small group one night, and the host was asking each person if they wanted tea. When she got to me, before I could even open my mouth, she said, “Would you like some water?” I don’t like tea – I never have – but I can remember times in my past where people would ask me over and over if I wanted any tea. It seemed like I was just having conversations in my head about not liking tea because no one seemed to know that about me. But this person, after only one time of me saying that I don’t drink tea, remembered that and offered water which was what I had asked for that first time I said that I don’t drink tea. This wasn’t the first night she had offered me water (or anything else to drink), but it was the first night I realized God was trying to tell me something. I felt something that night – something I was only starting to get truly comfortable with. I felt known. I felt loved. As I listened later that night to what God was trying to tell me, I kept thinking about little things that had been happening over the last year that were making me feel known by more than just the one or two exceptions in my life to that point. The only hot beverage I really drink is hot chocolate, but I don’t like it really hot. Over the last year, I’ve had people make me hot chocolate and leave a little room in the cup to add cold water if it was too hot. People who know that I have issues with my lower back have checked in with how my back was doing as we have set up and cleaned up workshops. Multiple people know that I don’t like my foods to touch, I am a huge sports fan, and I love root beer. They are such simple things, but those simple things being known have had huge significance. I am not invisible. I am known. Even in the small things. Knowing that has helped me to step deeper into the more vulnerable and big things. I can trust that I am safe, and there are people around me who care and want to know me. As I let that sink in a little more, I realized something else. God wants to be known. He knows everything about each and every one of us because He created each and every amazing, intricate detail. And He wants us to know Him.
As I sat on the beach on my birthday a little over a month ago, I watched my friends being rescued, and I couldn’t move for a while. God kept telling me to stay where I was at, and no matter how much I wanted to go and see how bad things were, I could not get up – could not even move an arm or leg. As I’ve shared that story, one response I’ve gotten is that people were glad that I listened to Him and stayed put. My response was usually, “I didn’t really have a choice. He sat on me.” His quick and adamant response was, “You always have a choice, my child.” As we talked about what happened that day, He said, “If you were not listening, if you did not know my voice – know Me – you would not have even noticed that I was there, wanting you to stay in that spot. It was your choice to hear My voice because it was your choice to know My voice – to know My Spirit. And it was your choice to stay and listen. You could have gotten up at any time, but you listened. You know My voice. You know Me. You may not understand all of it, but keep listening to My voice. Get to know Me more. Go deeper. Just as you have felt the significance of being known, I desire that with you. Know Me.” I haven’t really thought much about what could have happened if I hadn’t heard and listened to His voice that day. I do know I would have gone in the water, and I know it would have been a pretty stupid thing to do. I am glad that my heart recognized His voice, and I now have a new, vast desire to know Him more.