Invisible Women

Have you ever felt invisible, unseen, overlooked?

I was a bookish, studious, Jesus-loving little girl, so every time I opened a gift from a relative and found a porcelain doll, make-up kit, or glittery pink barrettes, I wondered how I could be so hard to see. Then, as a woman, single well into my twenties, I found myself every guy’s “best friend,” wondering when, oh when, would one of them see my potential to be more.

Shortly after I finally married, I gave birth to my parents’ first grandchild. Imagine my shock when I arrived for a visit to hear, “The baby’s arrived!” As if my infant son drove himself! And, I’m sure I’m not the only mother who felt herself fading into the scenery as her beautiful daughter reached adolescence. My Hannah is a knockout and for a time, I was confident I could commit crimes in her presence with no one able to pick me out of a line-up.

I’ve been passed over at jobs, left off invitation lists, and forgotten by family, at times. And I’ve met others who’ve felt invisible to their faith community because they’re older or they worship while their spouse stays home or they’re just “nothing special” and feel unseen.

While most of us don’t seek fame, or hope for world-wide recognition, it’s hard-wired into our beings to want to be noticed, to be clearly visible to someone. The good news is that God designed us with a desire to be seen because He is the God who sees.

Hagar, the servant girl who conceived Abraham’s first son, must have felt invisible. She slept with Abraham (then Abram) at Sarai’s request, for precisely that purpose, but when the pregnancy became a reality, Sarai mistreated Hagar. Hagar ran, but the angel of the Lord found her in the desert and promised her son a future. The God of the Universe appeared, not only to Abraham, the Patriarch, but also to his servant girl who was only seen for what she could offer. Hagar returned to Abram and Sarai with a renewed sense of identity because she had seen the God who sees.

Our God knows what it’s like to live unseen. He is, after all, invisible. But, even when He arrived in bodily form, John tells us, He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.” John 1:10-11 ESV

And when we come to this Jesus and find our home in Him, we remember there is nothing to fear from invisibility – it’s the stuff from which we were created – “By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.” Hebrews 11:3 ESV While there is pain in feeling invisible, surrendered to God, it just may become our superpower.

The first chapters of Luke’s gospel introduce us to three women who probably felt invisible. Elizabeth lived into her later years without the blessing of a child. In Israel, this would have sidelined her in her community. When God blessed her with a child who would be John, she praises what the Lord has done “when he looked on me.”

Mary was a virgin betrothed to be married, likely only seen by most as a daughter to be married off well, and thus bless her family. When she praises God for blessing her by making her the mother of Jesus, she proclaims that God “looked on the humble estate of his servant.” Both women reveled in knowing they had been seen by the most, high God.

Finally, we read of the prophetess, Anna, who, it is said, lived seven years with her husband before being widowed and then spent every day fasting and praying in the temple into her eighty-fourth year. How many of those years did she imagine herself invisible to all as a widow simply focused on God? But God saw her and blessed her by allowing her to see the infant Savior.

The knowledge that we are not invisible to God is used, too often, as a warning against sin, and not often enough as an encouragement that He also witnesses our private obedience. That we may be invisible to the world, but we only need be seen by God to have value, impact, and eternal worth.

Wasn’t Corrie ten Boom invisible in the concentration camps? Before she was arrested, the invisibility of being a woman in a time where women weren’t seen as powerful, allowed her to rescue many lives. Wasn’t Itzhak Stern invisible – a clerk, a bean-counter, a pencil-pusher – and through this invisibility, he created Schindler’s list that saved hundreds of Jews.

Even nature teaches us that invisibility doesn’t mean powerless. The very invisibility of the powerful corona virus is what has set the world on edge.

“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,  as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 ESV

Do you feel invisible? Are you flailing around, investing precious energy trying to be seen? Have you faded into the background of your own life?

Step into His light and remember He sees you. Let His vision restore your faith that living for Him is never in vain and that the things that are unseen are eternal.

“So she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, “You are a God of seeing,” for she said, “Truly here I have seen him who looks after me.” Genesis 16:13 ESV

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10 Comments

    The Conversation

  1. Melanie Gibson says:

    When I was younger I really had a hard time with a chronic condition and was miserable while I watched what felt like everybody else start families, and I felt very invisible. Now that I am older I still occasionally struggle with the demon of feeling like I am invisible, but I quickly remind myself that that can be a real advantage in some cases.

  2. Nancy K. Sullivan says:

    Your words are not only encouraging, but also empowering. ILM. Invisible Lives Matter. Blessings to you, Lori.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Almost always I feel that way.

  4. Deborah Kreyssig says:

    Such an important reminder Lori. Psalm 139, there is nowhere we can go God can’t see us. We are precious to Him. He has a plan and a purpose for each one of us. Not forgotten, not invisible but loved by our Heavenly Father.

  5. Marge says:

    What a delightful post. Thank you so very much.

  6. Cheryl Z says:

    So encouraging! I’ve felt unseen most of my life, too. Thanks for the reminder that God always sees me 🙂

  7. Linda H. says:

    I’ve felt invisible for much of my life, being the same kind of girl you were. Thanks for this post.

    When you mentioned invisibility being a superpower, it reminded me of a mystery series I read of an LOL (Little Old Lady), who solved crimes because she seemed invisible. 🙂

  8. Lana Christian says:

    What a lovely, timely post! Written from the heart, brimming with God’s truth. Thank you!

  9. Anonymous says:

    Dear Lori, of all your blog posts, I am blessed most by this one. Being an unseen gender often means that we have frustrating moments of powerlessness, when we feel what we need most is to be seen, heard and taken seriously. Thank you for the reminder that God sees, hears and cares. And He is all powerful.

  10. Sandra says:

    This very perspective materialized two weeks ago, and as the challenge became visible and thereby defeatable. No matter how much other people, surrounding circumstances, or my own vision try to make me believe I’m invisible, God sees me. He took me to the same Genesis passage. And the Truth that God sees me is enough as with so many other Truths. God sees me. Therefore, I AM VISIBLE. Thank you for articulating the struggle so well, Fellow Servant.