Monday, September 24, 2007

Perspective: The Invisible Woman

--By Nicole Johnson [this was received in my inbox, I could help but pass it on]

It started to happen gradually. One day I was walking my son Jake to school. I was holding his hand and we were about to cross the street when the crossing guard said to him, “Who is that with you, young fella?” “Nobody,” he shrugged. “Nobody?” The crossing guard and I laughed. My son is only 5, but as we crossed the street I thought, “Oh my goodness, nobody?”

I would walk into a room and no one would notice. I would say something to my family - like “Turn the TV down, please” - and nothing would happen. Nobody would get up, or even make a move for the remote. I would stand there for a minute, and then I would say again, a little louder, “Would someone turn the TV down?” Nothing.

Just the other night my husband and I were out at a party. We'd been there for about three hours and I was ready to leave. I noticed he was talking to a friend from work. So I walked over, and when there was a break in the conversation, I whispered, “I'm ready to go when you are.” He just kept right on talking.

That's when I started to put all the pieces together. I don't think he can see me. I don't think anyone can see me. I'm invisible.

It all began to make sense, the blank stares, the lack of response, the way one of the kids will walk into the room while I'm on the phone and ask to be taken to the store. Inside I'm thinking,”Can't you see I'm on the phone?”

Obviously not! No one can see if I'm on the phone, or cooking, or sweeping the floor, or even standing on my head in the corner, because no one can see me at all.

I'm invisible.

Some days I am only a pair of hands, nothing more: Can you fix this? Can you tie this? Can you open this? Some days I'm not a pair of hands; I'm not even a human being. I'm a clock to ask,”What time is it?” I'm a satellite guide to answer, “What number is the Disney Channel?” I'm a car to order,”Right around 5:30, please.”

I was certain that these were the hands that once held books and the eyes that studied history and the mind that graduated summa cum laude -but now they had disappeared into the peanut butter, never to be seen again.

She's going she's going she's gone!

One night, a group of us were having dinner, celebrating the return of a friend from England. Janice had just gotten back from a fabulous trip, and she was going on and on about the hotel she stayed in. I was sitting there, looking around at the others all put together so well. It was hard not to compare and feel sorry for myself as I looked down at my out-of-style dress; it was the only thing I could find that was clean. My unwashed hair was pulled up in a banana clip and I was afraid I could actually smell peanut butter in it. I was feeling pretty pathetic, when Janice turned to me with a beautifully wrapped package, and said, “I brought you this.”

It was a book on the great cathedrals of Europe. I wasn't exactly sure why she'd given it to me until I read her inscription: “To Charlotte, with admiration for the greatness of what you are building when no one sees.”

In the days ahead I would read - no, devour - the book. And I would discover what would become for me, four life-changing truths, after which I could pattern my work: * No one can say who built the great cathedrals - we have no record of their names. * These builders gave their whole lives for a work they would never see finished. * They made great sacrifices and expected no credit. * The passion of their building was fueled by their faith that the eyes of God saw everything.

A legendary story in the book told of a rich man who came to visit the cathedral while it was being built, and he saw a workman carving a tiny bird on the inside of a beam. He was puzzled and asked the man, “Why are you spending so much time carving that bird into a beam that will be covered by the roof? No one will ever see it.” And the workman replied, “Because God sees.”

I closed the book, feeling the missing piece fall into place. It was almost as if I heard God whispering to me, “I see you, Charlotte. I see the sacrifices you make every day, even when no one around you does. No act of kindness you've done, no sequin you've sewn on, no cupcake you've baked, is too small for me to notice and smile over. You are building a great cathedral, but you can't see right now what it will become.”

At times, my invisibility feels like an affliction. But it is not a disease that is erasing my life. It is the cure for the disease of my own self-centeredness. It is the antidote to my strong, stubborn pride.

I keep the right perspective when I see myself as a great builder. As one of the people who show up at a job that they will never see finished, to work on something that their name will never be on. The writer of the book went so far as to say that no cathedrals could ever be built in our lifetime because there are so few people willing to sacrifice to that degree.

When I really think about it, I don't want my son to tell the friend he's bringing home from college for Thanksgiving, “My mom gets up at 4 in the morning and bakes homemade pies, and then she hand bastes a turkey for three hours and presses all the linens for the table.” That would mean I'd built a shrine or a monument to myself. I just want him to want to come home. And then, if there is anything more to say to his friend, to add, “You're gonna love it there.”

As mothers, we are building great cathedrals. We cannot be seen if we're doing it right. And one day, it is very possible that the world will marvel, not only at what we have built, but at the beauty that has been added to the world by the sacrifices of invisible women.


Laura said...

that was just beautiful!! thanks or sharing!

Sarah said...

I am certainly not in any way an atheist, but this here is self-destruction. Even Jesus teaches that the body is a temple of God and should be cared of properly! If you give up everything for people who are cold as ice and full of contempt against you (because that's exactly what is showed in such actions!) so you will make God cry about you and not be proud!

Do you remember this story about the 3 men and their master? The master was away and gave to each of the men some talent (money in those times). The first man doubled his talent during the absence of the master, the second man doubled his talent during his absence, but the third man was afraid of the gift and buried it in the earth (humble???). And what happened? When the master came back, the 1st and 2nd man were rewarded for being eager and honoring the masters gifts in the proper way - the 3rd man was punished for dishonoring the master! I learned this story as a child in the Sunday school, it is inside the New Covenant - you disregard the gifts and talents God gave to you, if you bury them in earth and self destruction, instead of using them and learning and improving them, you make yourself a slave to people who dishonor you and misuse you and disregard your work, no you do NOT build a cathedral, maybe a cathedral of self-destruction - the kind craftsman working on the cathedral would never build it, if he would behave like you, he would have stayed at home and serve ice cold people as a servant, he would not find the courage to do great things in life and do creative work, which WILL be remembered, he knew this, he was just not egoistic to work for fame, he worked to fulfill the gifts God gave him and which were written in his heart.

God NEVER rewards self-destruction, like any destruction. And you know that. It is written in your heart. If you disregard the talents given to you, your life will become more and more dark and cold...

I pray for your kind soul to come back on the trail of the heart.

Carolyn said...

Dear Sarah,
It wasn't three men, it was ten, and seven of them would not be ruled by him and that is the story of those who are not meek and quiet …

In the parable of the pounds, the young nobleman who went to the far land to get a kingdom (Luke 19:12) called ten of his servants and gave them each one minas and said to engage in business until he comes. But his citizens hated him and would not have the man reign over them. These were the same servants who were told to do business for him. So when he returned one servant had multiplied what he'd been given by ten, one by five--one had done nothing and had what he'd been given taken from him. And the servants who would not have the nobleman rule over them were brought before the nobleman and slaughtered. In this parable told mere days before Calvary, Jesus, the nobleman, who would go to heaven to receive a kingdom, had come to earth from heaven to acomplish the work the Father had given Him (John 17:4). He'd come like a helpmate, like a wife in this world--He'd come to His own people and they would not receive Him (John 1:11-12). He'd come very much like the woman in this post, who did not receive respect, who was invisible, and who is today being slandered for her lack of assertiveness.

Disciples are very much the temple of God, but this has been poorly understood, for the new creature, born of spirit, is neither male nor female, Jew nor Greek (Gal 3:28), yet the body remains male or female. So it is the body, not the new creature who is the temple. The new creature is part of a holy nation a royal priesthood, a nation that was not before a nation (1 Pet 2:9-10) and the new creature dwells in the body as a Levite dwelt in the temple--this indwelling being to serve a nation and to teach the way of God. The woman who insists upon exercising her rights has not left spiritual Babylon.

Anonymous said...

I was feeling particularly invisible today. And, yes, self-centered. Some days, it is difficult to stay on my path, to do God's will, to put Him above all. Today, I put my self above and felt worse for it. So, tonight as I was trying to take my mind off such things, I came across this website and this posting.

Thank you for writing.

Thank you, God, for all of those hundreds of ways that you offer me daily to stay near, to walk more closely with my Lord.

Rachel said...

I have been overwhelmed lately with the great impossibility of being a mother, a wife, and a sometime housekeeper. I wanted this my whole life, and now I find it overwhelmingly impossible. There are so many little deaths to die each day, and each new day brings with it more little deaths. I weary of dying and having to die, of wanting to die and failing. Why can't we just lose ourselves once, and it be done with? But each new day brings more of the same. Thanks be to God that his mercies are new every morning.

Thank you for sharing this. It made me weep. I will have to die again tomorrow, in a hundred small and unremarkable ways that no one will see. Thank you for taking my focus off of that and reminding me that the only spectator to my life that matters is God. It is all for him to see and remember and reward.

Bless you.