This is part 7 to a series titled Unseen. If you are just joining us, please start here.
I was 7 years old when I saw the movie Nadia for the first time. Sprawled on my stomach, my chin rested in my V-shaped hands, eyes transfixed on the television screen as big as my body. My eyes remained glued to the screen as my hand dipped into the popcorn bowl.
I was captivated by the Olympic gymnastics gold medalist. Somehow I saw a tiny sliver of myself in this tiny gymnast. Was it that we both had brown hair? Maybe it was the small body size? Was it her girlish play in the schoolyard I wanted? Or was it more? Did I want something else she had? Did I identify with her in some way or did I only long to identify with her?
Monday morning I sat in Mrs. Calvaressi’s first grade class. Most weeks a little note accompanied me home telling my mom that while I performed well at school, I needed to talk less. On this particular day, daydreaming left no time for chatty.
Again my chin found a resting spot in the cradle of my hands while my mind’s reel played the scene where Nadia and her friend cartwheeled through the schoolyard. They were laughing and giddy with girlish charm. Giggling and pretending to be the gymnasts they dreamt of being. In that schoolyard, Nadia and her friend pretended to be who they wanted to be. Bela, the Romanian Olympic gymnastics coach, visited the school Nadia attended. She caught his attention while she and her friend giggled and cartwheeled their way around the play yard.
He went in search of a gymnast. Displaying her talent is where he found her. Something deep inside of me wanted to be seen too. As a child from a broken home, many days I felt invisible and forgotten.
So I did the most logical thing a 7-year-old could do. I tried to replicate Nadia’s story. If it worked for her, surely it would work for me. I had no idea I was grasping for an artificial seen.
Maybe I have a hidden gift for flipping and twirling my body in ways that are gracefully terrifying. Maybe I needed to pretend or practice to be who I wanted to be, displaying it for others to see. From my earliest memories, my heart longed to be seen. For someone to say, “I see you.” Because if they see me, my chances are increased they will love me. They can’t love me if they can’t see me.
A little place in my soul felt restless all the time. Something wanted to come awake, to be seen and found, to be known and loved. I held the assumption that I needed to place myself on display in order to draw someone’s attention to me.
Nadia was seen. I wanted to be seen. The sound of backpack zippers snapped me out of my reverie. Jumping out of my seat, I hastily packed up my pencils and crayons. With my backpack secure on my back, arms crossed, and toes tapping, I stood in the line waiting to see my mom’s brown Toyota Corolla pull up. I had one thing on my mind. Putting my plan into action.
My parents had been divorced for more than a year at this point. My path to discovery became cartwheels in the cul-de-sac. I started at the edge and cartwheeled without stopping the entire circumference of that circle. 20 cartwheels to make it around. Maybe more. The dizzy feeling took a few minutes to dissipate. I looked around. No cars. No one was watching me. But I was relentless. So I went another round. And another. And another.
Was someone coming to find me? Would they see something in me that would replace the feelings of invisible? Would they discover that beneath my 7-year-old skin was a little girl who had something of value? Potential? Did I have something someone could love?
An Olympic coach never discovered me cartwheeling around the circle. We moved from that house shortly after my mom married my stepdad. I left the cartwheels in the cul-de-sac with that house and packed away my dream of being seen. I’d have to find another way.
In my 7-year-old mind, being seen was directly tied to being loved. First I must be seen to prove I could be loved. God’s Word contradicts this thought pattern.
And now I tell the memory of that 7-year-old this, “You were more than seen. You were created.”
When we find ourselves in a season of forgetting we are already seen, we can feel invisible. Feasting on newsfeeds only exacerbates this feeling.
Our Creator sees us. We aren’t invisible to Him. We are approved by Him through Christ alone. He never stops seeing His creation. We never become invisible to Him, even when we feel invisible in our highly connected world.
Psalm 33:13 “From heaven the LORD looks down and sees all mankind;”
The invisible days make us feel lonely. He sees us. He loves us. In Him we have been raised with Christ. We may feel invisible to the world, but we are never invisible to the One who matters. So we shift our thoughts to higher grounds. We change how we think, which changes how we feel.
Colossians 3: 1-2 “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”
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