On Being Invisible

Sometimes, I think my worst fear is being unremarkable.

When I was in high school, I always identified with Anne Hathaway’s character in the movie The Princess Diaries.  Not, of course, because I was secretly the heir to the throne of a tiny European country, but because people sat on her.  People sat on her and bumped into her and overlooked her.  And I knew exactly how that felt.

No one ever sat on me in high school.  No one pointed and laughed at me.  If there were girls calling me mean names, it was behind my back, and I never found out about it.  But a lot of times, I felt invisible.  I would comment on something someone said and startle everyone in the group I was standing with because no one realized I was there.  When I got tired of being talked over at my friend’s lunch table, I ate my lunch in the library or the park.  I was the girl people went to with problems not party invitations.  I was great for a listening ear but not for a good time.

College followed the same theme.  I spent twenty to thirty hours each week on the campus ministry I was involved in between attendance, volunteer work, and a part-time job.  Despite this, I always felt unconnected.  I barely managed a handful of friendships within the group, and only one of them was particularly satisfying.  Even then, I often neglected that one, genuine friendship because I was too focused on being the best possible servant.

And that’s really the key.  Ideal Christian femininity was model to me as quiet, submissive service.  Truly godly women did not ask for a place in the spotlight.  Instead, they served wherever they were needed, often without thanks or recognition.  The spotlight was for men (and strong-willed women, who were probably not all that godly anyway).  I remember standing in a circle at the end of a leadership meeting at that same campus ministry, waiting for one of the guys to get up the courage to lead in prayer because our pastor felt we needed stronger male leadership from among the students.  And while he was a great guy, and I don’t think he intended to push the women in the group down as much as he intended to challenge a group of guys that he felt were slacking, the message I took away from those meetings was that having women who got out front and led wasn’t good enough.  In fact, having women as the driving force in our leadership group was dangerous and ungodly.  So I waited.  I waited through moments when God was speaking to me about our group, moments when I had something important to say.  I waited and tried to find a quiet place of service, only to be overlooked.  And looking back, I can’t help but wonder what all of us missed out on.

I don’t want to spend the rest of my life feeling invisible.

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