As I sit here alone it is easy to feel like I am island. My country home is lovely but very lonely when my husband is away. The days stretch ahead of me, one like the other. Limited interactions, other than some through my phone or computer, make me feel insignificant at times. I realize how easy it could be for me to just get lost in the isolation.
These times of solitude make me pensive. Too much time to think is not necessarily a good thing. Without the perspective of others, some things easily get magnified and cause more havoc than I would like. It is definitely a time when the devil can play with my head and goad me into unhealthy thought patterns. It’s really scary how my thoughts get easily led down paths that are hurtful rather than helpful.
One disturbing memory really strikes me. Why this particular life event makes an impact on my brain today, I’m not sure. It is an event from many years in the past yet it feels like it happened recently. On this comfortable weekend day, I wonder why this memory impresses itself on me.
It was a cold wintery day. There was a bus strike in my city – one that had gone on for many weeks. I relied on that bus to get to confirmation class. My class occurred on the same night my dad had evening curling in another part of the city, so our only household car was occupied. We lived a long distance from our church and walking, especially in the winter, was not feasible for either the elements or for safety.
I had missed a number of weeks of confirmation class. Either my mom kept thinking the buses would be back any day or she was too shy to ask for help; but she didn’t have any way for me to get to church. Up until this point, I had been a good student and faithful attender, anxious to finish my confirmation experience and be an “adult” member of my congregation.
This particular night, I was finally in class, thanks to a friend and her family who recognized my need. I was glad to be back as I enjoyed learning more about Scripture and the foundations of faith.
Normally it was the cooler kids who got to sit next to the young vicar who was our instructor. He was a charismatic person and very popular with the young people. This night, I had that precious spot. As I sat by the vicar’s side I was thrilled, at first, to be able to watch his moves as he taught.
As the class opened, he began to read down the list to take attendance and my name came towards the end. When he got to me, I responded in the affirmative with my usual quiet voice.
What happened next has never left me. I saw him look over the crowd of students and shake his head in disgust when he didn’t see me. His preconceived notion that I didn’t care about the class coloured his judgment. With horror I watched him mark me absent. I didn’t know what to say. I couldn’t speak; it was as if I was frozen.
What I should have wondered is, why a caring church worker wouldn’t investigate my absence when I had been a faithful attender or why he wouldn’t put two and two together and realize there was a longstanding bus strike on and maybe that had something to do with my lack of attendance. Instead, I shouldered the blame myself. If only I mattered more, if only I was important, if only I was one of the pretty, talkative girls, etc. I beat myself up for something that was not my fault. Feeling absolutely invisible, my self-worth took a big hit that night.
We all have incidents in life where we feel unseen, unheard, and unloved. It is easy for us to consider ourselves insignificant or that we are to blame. Those feelings heighten when we get introspective. As we focus inward, it becomes easier to believe that if we would just be a certain way (more intelligent, more beautiful, etc.) that we would matter more.
Many people in society feel invisible at the best of times. Now, with social distancing and isolation, feeling unseen affects most of us. Even though a virus is to blame for our need to pull away from others, we still hurt when we cannot interact as we’d like.
Those adept at technology are doing better than most as they connect through various forms of media as well as those who live in neighbourhoods where they can chat with community members while still maintaining distance.
But what about those who don’t fit those scenarios? What can we do to help those who feel desolate and alone in these challenging times? No one should feel they are to blame for this circumstance. No one should feel invisible and that no one cares for them.
How thankful I am that Jesus sees the invisible. In a large crowd of people who came to see him, He singles out tiny Zacchaeus, a tax collector, despised by his fellow Israelites. Jesus sees more than his greedy exterior. He reaches into Zacchaeus’ heart and touches him with His love and care. Jesus has a similar focus when he approaches Matthew, the tax collector, to be one of his precious chosen twelve disciples. He gives a place of honour to someone no one in their culture considered to be important.
Think of the woman at the well. She chooses to come to the well in the heat of the day to avoid the glares of the community who disapprove of her lifestyle. Jesus is different. He seeks her out and starts a conversation. He shares about God’s immense love for her and that she is not invisible, but important in His eyes. The woman caught in adultery and about to be stoned, feels the same wondrous love from Jesus as He accepts her as she is and encourages her to leave her life of sin and be a faithful follower. Her life is forever changed as she goes from invisible outcast to a child of the light.
God challenges us to care for others. He doesn’t just want us to care for the “in” crowd or those people who give us something in return. We are called, as God’s people, to share His light with others in whatever way we can.
Take stock today of people in your world who may be feeling invisible in these challenging circumstances. How can you spread Jesus’ love to them in a meaningful way that shows them they matter to our risen Lord and Saviour? Maybe it is a young single mom who needs some support because she is going crazy trying to cope with little ones in isolation. Maybe it is a senior in a care facility not allowed to have in person visitors who needs a phone call. Perhaps it is the family of a medical worker who needs meals provided. The list is endless if we really start to explore the possibilities and open our hearts to the nudging of the Holy Spirit.
Don’t let anyone be invisible on your watch. Jesus is forever seeking out the lost and forlorn. We should do no less.