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In the 2005 Fox Studios-produced Marvel comic book movie, Fantastic Four, Jessica Alba’s character Sue Storm is having dinner with her on-again, off-again boyfriend (and later husband), Reed Richards (played by Ioan Gruffudd) who is the smartest man in the world.
At one point in the conversation, she is frustrated with him. Despite his intelligence, he is often unable to appreciate normal social interaction and see what is in front of him. She tells him “it’s nice to be wanted sometimes. To be seen and heard.”
Knowing he’s guilty, and with no answer to her complaint, Reed averts his eyes from her gaze. Feeling he is ignoring her, she urges him “Look at me!” As he turns to face her, he is alarmed. There is no-one before him. Immediately he tells her he can’t. Incredulous, because she misunderstands him, she snaps angrily “what do you mean you can’t? LOOK at me!”
“Sue, look at your hands,” Reed tells her. She is shocked to find that she has literally turned invisible.
Sue Storm of course, later becomes the super heroine named the Invisible Woman. As her name suggests, she has the ability to bend light waves at will in order to make herself or others completely invisible, and to project powerful force fields and create invisible constructs. However, as she is discovering her powers for the first time, her frustration is a metaphor for how she feels like in life. Invisible and insignificant.
Our desire to be seen and known by others
Sue’s words of frustration echo the cry of our heart that each of us have at many times in our life. “Look at me”, we often plead.
Sometimes it feels like nobody sees you at all. As if you are invisible.
Do you ever long for others to notice you and give you the time of day? For people to take you seriously?
Perhaps it can feel like everyone else gets the attention and that you are always overlooked. Maybe you’re passed over for that promotion. Or others are able to engage in their talents or step into leadership, while no-one seems to seem your true potential.
Perhaps when you reach out to others for help or send an email, people ignore you and don’t even respond. It’s as if you aren’t even worth a response.
Sometimes it seems that some people barely seem to have to do anything to get attention while have to work at it hard and still get absolutely nowhere. Other times it feels as if no-one would miss you if you were to disappear from the face of the planet.
This can lead you to either give up and fade into obscurity and live life on the periphery, or drive you to perform to get the recognition you believe you deserve.
I know what this is like because I’ve both felt this way and done this very thing myself.
Throughout school I felt invisible. While it’s a time when many of us do, I was subject to a lot of racism and ostracism, the effects of which carried through into later life.
To counter that, over a number of years I developed numerous creative skills and abilities, and gained a number of qualifications and experiences. I ended up learning multiple musical instruments and singing and performing on stage in front of others. I also went into careers such as teaching or law where I would be speaking in front of others and sharing my knowledge.
The constant driving force was to be as good as or better than others, so that people would take notice in the hope that others would finally see me. If I was up in front of others, then I wouldn’t be on the periphery. As Sue Storm says, “It’s nice to be wanted sometimes. To be seen and heard.”
This isn’t an article about how you can get others to notice you. I know I could easily write something on that. In the end though, while it might help you out for a while, you’ll find that it doesn’t satisfy or really address the problem.
You might think doing these things would help, but that hasn’t always been the case. At church, throughout most of my adult life, I’ve still felt invisible and overlooked for who I am and what I can do. I could put it down to a feeling (and we do need to see if we have the correct interpretation of events or whether it’s just our emotions). However, there were very specific instances where even other Christians refused to see beyond what they could see of me. Without knowing any of my background, they would often make quick assumptions about me and what they thought I could or couldn’t do – whether that was being able to lead groups, give a talk in front of others or perform in front of a crowd, even though I’ve spent my life doing these very things.
This can still leave you feeling misunderstood, stereotyped or glossed over despite developing all these skills. That’s why simply acquiring all of these doesn’t get to the heart of the problem.
Here are 5 Biblical truths to remember whenever you feel invisible and that no-one sees you.
5 BIBLICAL TRUTHS TO REMEMBER WHENEVER YOU FEEL INVISIBLE
1. Don’t turn your search for significance into an idol
Sue’s frustration,”It’s nice to be wanted sometimes. To be seen and heard,” is a legitimate desire. It is nice for people to notice and appreciate us. However, in our pursuit of this, we can sometimes go out of our way to ensure this happens, and it can become an obsession.
This can easily lead us into idolatry and searching for our significance in other things than God alone.
In his book Counterfeit gods, Tim Keller defines an idol as:
“… something we cannot live without… It is anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give. A counterfeit god is anything so central and essential to your life that, should you lose it, your life would feel hardly worth living.”
Our legitimate desires can easily become idols that we pursue in the hope that it will bring our life meaning and make us known.
In Genesis 11:1-9, in the account of the Tower of Babel, the people of the world who had descended from Noah sought significance in something other than God. To this end, they decided to build a tower that reached to the sky. In Genesis 11:4 it says
Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”
In a sense, they wanted to be a people with an identity. However, it was not the fact that they wanted identity that was the problem. It was that they were seeking it apart from God. They sought the glory for themselves rather than wanting the glory to go to God.
We can easily become like the people who built the Tower of Babel.
This is a particular problem for creatives. If you are one yourself, either as an artist, musician or performer, one of the underlying motivations for doing what we do is for others to see and recognise us. We want to build our own towers to make a name for ourselves. That can make us crave acknowledgement and validation of our work. We want to be truly known and feel that we are worth knowing.
Jordan Raynor, in his book Called To Create writes:
“The world offers many motivations for entrepreneurs: money, power, status, and influence are just a few. But all of these motivations can be summed up in this deep-seated desire to make a name for ourselves. At our core, we know there is something deeply wrong with us and we work insanely hard to prove to the world that we are not a chump. To prove that we are valuable. To prove that our life is meaningful.”
As both creatives and people in general, we want to feel special and loved. We want others to see us as worthy of attention and not simply a nobody who is invisible or that everyone overlooks.
In his book, The Search for Significance, author Robert McGee writes:
“Whether labelled self-esteem or self-worth, the feeling of significance is crucial to man’s emotional, spiritual, and social stability and is the driving element within the human spirit.”
Performing in front of others and engaging in numerous activities is a good thing. But when it becomes the source of our identity and self worth, it becomes an idol. We begin to think “If I perform, then I can finally be happy. Someone will finally recognise me as significant. Now people will finally take me seriously. Now someone will finally see me.”
I know this to be true as I’ve done this very thing many times myself. I can also tell you that it feels empty afterwards. Sure, you can have the buzz of an audience praising you and giving you words of encouragement. However, that quickly fades and people forget you. Fame is fleeting. And despite being in front of everyone, people still don’t see you in the way you want or truly know you. They only see the image you project.
Tim Keller adds:
“If we look to some created thing to give us the meaning, hope, and happiness that only God himself can give, it will eventually fail to deliver and break our hearts.”
2. When we feel invisible we need to keep our eyes on the invisible.
2 Corinthians 4:17-18 says:
“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (NIV)
One of the reasons we can begin to feel unknowable is when we focus our eyes on the wrong thing. If we focus our eyes on ourselves, we may become depressed about our own situation, especially if we feel we aren’t where we want to be.
Similarly, if we focus our eyes on others, then we begin to compare ourselves to their success or progress. We desire recognition and acknowledgement. When that doesn’t happen, we begin to envy others or become dissatisfied with our lot.
Spending too much time on social media can make you feel invisible and unworthy. How come others seem to have a much better life than I do? Why do others get so many comments or likes when you can’t even muster up one single response? Why is someone else getting that recognition when I’m much better or have had years more experience?
Hebrews 12: 2 tells us we need to fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. We need to focus on what he says about us. I’ve written about that in more detail here.
Colossians 1:15 tells us that “Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. The firstborn over all creation.”
As Rick Warren is fond of saying:
“To endure the unendurable, you must see the invisible – Jesus.”
When we seek the approval of others, this can leave us feeling miserable. There’s always someone influential who is going to fail to see you even if everyone else sees you. And if that person doesn’t see you and they have their mind made up, then it can still leave you feeling invisible.
That’s why it’s more important what God says about us.
Robert McGee writes
“Rather than relying on God’s steady, uplifting reassurance of who we are, we depend on others who base our worth on our ability to meet their standards. Because our performance and ability to please others so dominates our search for significance, we have difficulty recognising the distinction between our real identity and the way we behave, a realisation crucial to understanding our true worth. Our true value is not based on our behaviour or the approval of others but on what God’s Word says is true of us.”
3. Focus on helping others feel less invisible
When we fix our eyes on God we can begin to see ourselves as he sees us. But we can also begin to see others as he sees them.
I said above that we shouldn’t look at others with the purpose of comparing ourselves to them. However, if we look at others who are often overlooked with the purer motives of making them feel less invisible, this in turn can have the added bonus of helping others see us.
This should stem from the two ideas of loving God and loving your neighbour, and knowing that faith without actions is dead (James 2:17).
It’s not that we help others with hidden motives. That doesn’t work because you’ll ultimately focus on yourself rather than others. Rather, it’s that if we take our eyes off our own situation and focus on helping others, we become less self absorbed and don’t worry about whether we feel invisible or not.
4. Remember that God sees what we do even in private
Often as Christians we can do things for show, for the approval of others. Sometimes our motives are impure. We seek recognition or the feeling of significance that comes with doing a particular ministry, or when others hear us pray eloquently or give a good talk.
In Matthew 6:1, Jesus says
“Be careful not to practise your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.
Jesus gives two examples of practising your righteousness before others: giving to the needy and praying. If we do this so that others can see us, we are hypocrites. Our focus is not on God but on others and their approval. If we do this, we have our reward now in full, which is the equivalent to an immediate but somewhat empty reward. That is all we receive and nothing more.
Jesus tells us that God the Father sees in secret and that the Father will reward us. This is a greater reward than the mere empty praises of others here in this life.
The important thing is that God does see what we do and knows our hearts. He sees our good deeds or prayers which we think no-one notices.
If we are doing things purely for recognition, particularly at church or within a ministry, then we need to question our motives for doing so.
5. Know that only God sees us as we truly are
In Genesis 3:10, after Adam and Eve had eaten of the fruit of the tree of knowledge, God called out to them. Despite being all-knowing and all-seeing, he asked Adam “where are you?” What was Adam’s response? “I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid myself.”
It is ironic but not surprising that since the Fall, we have sought significance from other people or things than from God. We long for others to see us. Yet since the Fall we have hidden ourselves so that others can’t see us as we truly are. Often, we have an outward image we maintain that we allow others to see to hide any brokenness or shame. We are afraid that if others truly knew what we were like, they would reject us.
As Lawrence J Crabb and Dan Allender write in their book Encouragement: The Key To Caring:
“He [Adam] was aware of his true condition, which if exposed would meet with rejection… Adam hid in an effort to avoid dealing with what he feared… And people ever since then, following in Adam’s footsteps, have been searching desperately for ways to cover their unworthiness, to feel good about themselves despite the fact that they are worthy of rejection.”
Our desire to be known and to be seen stems back to the Fall. We desire that intimate relationship with another.
Robert McGee writes:
“Since the Fall, man has often failed to turn to God for the truth about himself. Instead, he has looked to other to meet his inescapable need for self-worth. I am what others say I am, he has reasoned. I will find my value in their opinions of me.”
Sometimes some authors break down the word “Intimacy” into the words INTO ME SEE. This describes the kind of relationship Jesus wants with us.
We want others to recognise and know us, but only God can truly know us and see into us for who we are.
Psalm 139:13-16 says:
13 You created every part of me;
you put me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because you are to be feared;
all you do is strange and wonderful.
I know it with all my heart.
15 When my bones were being formed,
carefully put together in my mother’s womb,
when I was growing there in secret,
you knew that I was there—
16 you saw me before I was born.
The days allotted to me
had all been recorded in your book,
before any of them ever began. (GNB)
When we know our true identity in Christ, that he knows every part of us and that he sees into us, this will help us to feel less invisible. On the other hand, if we do feel invisible and alone, he may be calling you to seek him. He is the one who truly sees and truly knows you.
Sue Storm’s cry for attention in Fantastic Four is “it’s nice to be wanted sometimes. To be seen and heard. Look at me!”
Jesus is the answer to all of that. God wants you and a relationship with you. He sees you and hears your cry. If you think that you are too naked, ashamed and afraid to come to him, he looks at you and sees Jesus. He can clothe you in his righteousness. All he asks is that, rather than you saying “look at me,” you look at him. Fix your eyes on him.
Do you ever feel invisible and that others don’t see you as you really are or they don’t seem to know you at all? Have you ever felt overlooked by others around you? How did you cope with it and did you ever do anything to try to get others to notice you?
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Robert is the founder of Drawing on the Word. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Theology and a Master’s degree in Systematic Theology. He also has a degree in Law and was called to the Bar. Robert previously taught religious studies and was a theology lecturer. He is an artist, musician and writer, and has created a graphic novel version of Luke’s gospel. You can follow him below.