This sentiment orbits around me. The childhood trauma of my parents’ divorce acts as its gravitational pull. In the breakup of their marriage, my mom was awarded primary custody of my brother and me, my dad was given significant visitation rights, and nine-year old me inherited this false messaging:
“You are disposable!”
No one actually said those words to me. But in the upheaval, grieving, and wounding, I was left with this scarring. Like a skillful makeup artist, I learned to hide the bruising. Achievements and accolades were the perfect concealer, and having a boyfriend meant that at least I mattered to someone, even if he didn’t have the capacity to truly see me.
But beneath the homecoming queen crown, the college graduate honors, and the multiple degrees, the fear of being insignificant clung to me. It melded into me. It stayed with me. We seem inseparable. It speaks to who I am as my husband’s wife, as my children’s mom:
“You are disposable! You don’t matter!”
It wants to be my forever song, the score to my life’s unfolding. It wants to be the lead vocals, and whenever I experience rejection, fear turns up the volume and presses repeat. It gets the spotlight and summons all my attention. Hearing this reverberating bouncing around in the recesses of my being is exhausting. It’s a constant tug-of-war.
“You are disposable. You don’t matter. You are insignificant!”
Recently, the noise of my fear has been deafening. I have been losing sleep and agonizing over the pain of feeling invisible and invaluable. And yes, I know that God sees me and values me. I don’t struggle with that at all. My strife is with humans devaluing me. I am deflated when people treat me like I don’t matter. I can tell myself that it shouldn’t matter what people think of me, that I should solely be concerned with how God knows me, but that doesn’t reconcile the countless times that in someone else’s decision-making process, I felt like an afterthought, overlooked, or a pawn.
A month ago, the anxiety pushed me to desperation, and desperately, I cried out to El-roi — the One who not only sees me but who sees everything. In moments like these, I feel like I shouldn’t need God to affirm me, that mature faith doesn’t need to be coddled. But desperation overrides my ego. In my exhaustion, I’m like a toddler crawling into a nurturing lap to be embraced by grace-filled arms.
As I surrendered, my life’s major events unfolded in my mind like a movie recap. But in the reviewing, I heard a different score with different songs. I began to clearly see elements at work that I had not given much attention to before. I grabbed my journal and started writing.
Who saw me when I thought I was invisible?
- During my parents’ divorce, my grandma Pearline made sure I knew I was special to her.
- When my mom remarried and it seemed as though her new husband wanted her without her children, my grandma Virginia brought attention to my loneliness and pain.
- When I needed to be supported in a life in academia, several people played key roles in escorting me from first-generation college graduate to college professor. It was a series of miracles.
- Now, whenever I am in a situation where someone is taking advantage of me, my husband intervenes and shuts down the whole operation.
- I am a writer for (in)courage because another contributor saw my gifts.
Names and events flowed like a waterfall. I journaled for pages. The list went on and on of how love manifested through people seeing me, hearing me, and valuing me. As I reflected and recorded in my journal, the volume on the old song (which does not bear repeating) began fading to the background. I had given too much attention to my story’s antagonist. I had allowed shadows to consume my life’s stage. I was ready for the protagonist to take its rightful place, front and center. I was now seeing all that had been invisible to me. I was ready to sing a new song:
I matter. I am seen. I am valued. I am heard.
As I rehearse the new song, the narrative reshapes me. I call this my songwriting exercise. When the old song begins to reverberate, I return to my journal and read, Who saw me when I thought I was invisible? I add to the list, and I turn up the volume on the new song:
I matter. I am seen. I am valued. I am heard!
You matter. You are seen. You are valued. You are heard.