Things I always am-
Things I frequently am-
Worship singer, writer, director
Things I often am-Insecure,fearful,learning,waiting,curious
Things I never am-Confident,driven,demanding,nasty
There’s a musical called “Chicago” it might still be on broadway, I know it was made into a movie a while back. It’s set in the 1920’s filled with speak-easys, bathtub gin, flappers, dirty cops, crooked lawyers and showbiz. In the middle of this bawdy musical, a very pitiful character comes on stage and sings Mr Cellophane.
Mr Cellophane, Mr Cellophane shoulda been my name
Mr Cellophane. ‘Cause you can look right thru me,
walk right by me and never know I’m there.
The song is really sad especially for anybody that has ever felt invisible. And who hasn’t felt that way a few times in life. At school never being picked for a team or no one making room for you on the bus. That horrible feeling can follow us thru life. If our parents have felt this way-it easily passes on to us just like eye color or left-handedness.
When this happens in church, well, this is absolutely the worst feeling. After all, this is the house of God. All God’s children should be “seen”. My mother-in-law felt invisible her whole life and with good reason. Rejected by parents and family, sent to live in children’s home, she suffered terrible physical and emotional abuse. She never recovered, never healed, never felt valued and visible. Unfortunately every church she visited, the pastor never saw her or even shook her hand. She didn’t imagine this. She was not seen. That was until the last year of her life.
God had moved us out of a church with a large congregation to a church with only a handful of people. A new Pastor preached the same day we started attending. We were all going to learn a big lesson about seeing and being seen.
The new pastor was big guy with an even bigger voice, deep, warm and inviting. His former church was very large but suffered a sad split and he was collateral damage. Maybe that’s what made him so insightful or perhaps he was just naturally that way but for whatever reason-he saw EVERYBODY! The one rule he lived by- “Sheep may bite but shepherds never HURT the sheep”. He would literally block the door so no one could get by him before he could shake their hand, touch a shoulder, or give them a bear hug. For a whole year before she passed, my mother-in-law was hugged, squeezed, visited and “seen” by him and the church followed his example. She finally felt accepted. No one looked thru her or passed her by.
In our former, large church, there was a deliberate separation between clergy and congregant, staff and layperson. Friendships with pastors were discouraged so care and compassion became the exception not the rule. Many people felt used or just invisible and unimportant. Hearing how wonderful being in the family of God was and yet experiencing the opposite just made you feel something was wrong with you if you weren’t experiencing it.
During our time at this tiny church with the new pastor my husbands back problems had escalated to the point that he was losing feeling in both legs and with frighteningly increasing frequency, he was collapsing to the floor. He had scheduled surgery but in the meantime had to continue working as an exterminator for the pest control companying he had just started. That big, sweet pastor begged my husband-“Let me come to work with you, I’ll be your legs, you can sit and tell me what to do and how to do it”. It was surprising and amazing. My husband had been “seen”. Not because of what he could do for the church or the pastor. He was seen just because he was. And being seen changed him.
My husband knows the names of all the immigrants in our neighborhood. And all the names of their kids. He is invited to their church for their celebrations. He finds jobs for them when he can. He sees them. He’s helping one friend find help for a serious injury at work. They try to help him speak spanish, he helps them with english. A few days ago they called to thank him. In spanish they told him “You are seen as our angel”
Maybe we can be over-looked at church but…
where it really counts.