I can still remember standing in the middle of the cafeteria at The Meadows and screaming those words. I was on a perch above the lunch crowd, dutifully acting out my task for the day. At that time I was a woman who felt unseen by her family, her workplace, her church, and even the people in treatment with me.
I had come to this point because for most of my life I felt invisible. I had learned to hide in a family with alcoholism and domestic abuse, to stay under the radar. I had been body-shamed either for developing early, being too fat, or being too skinny; so I tried not to call attention to myself. I grew up at a time when most women were not seen for their value-added in the work environment. And although I knew women in ministry areas, others frequently were held back to certain “lady-like” areas: prayer teams, women’s ministry, altar guild, and hospitality.
I understand how some women today can feel invisible or at a minimum, not heard. It took me three times of yelling out “I AM NOT INVISIBLE” before the people in the cafeteria even turned to hear me–and then they applauded my bravery. Funny thing is, they didn’t really see me after my bold action, but I saw me. I learned that I needed to stand up for myself, even if no one else was with me.
Even when we push forward and make strides as women, some still evaluate us based on our sexuality or ‘beauty.’ One of my challenges in a government position of leadership was to maintain my femininity while asserting myself in a mostly male-run environment. It was not unusual to see women take on more masculine traits to be validated while women who maintained femininity were seen as light-weights (or light-headed?). I still remember a dear friend asking me during an event at a conference: “What would a man do? He would just go right in like he belonged there, even if he didn’t get an invitation.” It was a reminder that we as women need to step up and out of our comfort zone to be seen and heard. And we need to do it for one another.
I can understand why some think that they need special treatment (i.e., legislation) to overcome the bias that continues to exist in work places. Unfortunately, there is no legislation that will change the mind (or behavior) of some individuals about women, anymore than legislation has changed the opinion some have about the LGBT community or minorities. These minds will only be changed as those of us who see the value and worth of women (and other communities) promote their merit and help secure a future for them.
All things are legitimate, but not all things are helpful. All things are legitimate, but not all things are constructive and edifying. (1 Corinthians 10:23)
I know that we need to rise above the negativity and not come down to the level of those using vile language to describe and assess women. We don’t need to repeat their words to be heard – we need a new positive language that validates what we already know. We were all created in the image of God and all have the same value in his eyes and should have it in the eyes of each other. We don’t need to take terms that defile women and turn them on ourselves. Our strength will come from demonstrating and demanding respect for each other.
I have taken my own steps in that direction. I have bonded with other like-minded women and we are uplifting and encouraging one another. I have thrown my hat in the ring for leadership positions because even if I was overlooked, my name was in front of those making decisions. I am committed to building a community of single persons, especially women. I am studying ways to help them see their contribution and to stand with them as they discern their ministry or professional calling. And I am using this platform to share my story of transformation and new life to encourage others to seek out help where it is needed.
Let each one of us make it a practice to please his neighbor for his good and for his true welfare, to edify him. Romans 15:3
I am not invisible anymore. I know that I was made for purpose. My purpose, my calling, may differ from yours, and I respect that. We may view world priorities differently, and I am willing to learn from those differences in opinion. I have discovered that being happy and content in my skin may make some people uncomfortable, and that I need to step into leadership respectfully understanding that change is never easy. I will keep my one-woman march forward going, with my eyes turned upward and with the prayers and support of those that believe in my journey. I will be responsible for me and not blame others when things don’t go my way–I will find a way to make it work if I discern it is God’s will.
My prayer for you today therefore is that you become willing to take action to be seen and heard where you are called to be an instrument of change. I pray that you will seek God’s will for your life and step forward with courage. I pray that you will go high when others go low, that they may see up from where they stand. I pray that you will sow seeds of encouragement and that you will be a vessel of compassion for those less fortunate for you. I pray you will go with God wherever he takes you.
For the Lord shall be your confidence, firm and strong, and shall keep your foot from being caught. Proverbs 3:26
The photo used for this post is the ‘invisible’ stealth carrier.