“Thereafter, Hagar used another name to refer to the Lord, who had spoken to her. She said, ‘You are the God who sees me.'” (Genesis 16:13)
When I was a child I always dreamed of having super-powers! One day I imagined I could walk on the ceiling, walking around my home looking down into a mirror. Another day I imagined I could fly and made a cape out of a bed sheet. But my favorite super-power, the one I used most often, was the ability to become invisible. I dreamed I would be a daring spy, or a superhero who didn’t need to wear glasses so that no one would recognize me in my everyday life.
Finding that I have an invisible illness taught me a lesson about invisibility–it’s not as much fun as it’s cracked up to be!
On days when I have to use my wheelchair it’s like I slip on a cloak of invisibility. Yesterday as I sat in my wheelchair in a crowded store, I took advantage of my invisibility to observe those milling around me. Unless I was in someone’s way, no one spared me a second glance.
Each person made eye contact with those they passed, lifted a hand in greeting, nodded a hello, sent a small smile of acknowledgement; but I suppose because I was out of their “line of sight” I was overlooked. Even those who performed acts of kindness, like holding the door open for me or reaching something on the shelf that was out of my reach, smiled at me in pity rather than in greeting.
Maybe it’s because people are uncomfortable with illness or disability… the same reason people avoid hospitals or nursing home. We force them to acknowledge their own frailty and mortality.
Even on days when I am not in my wheelchair if people can sense any “defects” in my health or mental state, the eye contact becomes uncomfortable. Those who know that I am ill often have a hard time starting or maintaining natural, flowing conversation with me. I’m not sure what the cause is, although I have my guesses and speculations. But I do know that it hurts.
For someone who was once a vibrant, essential, rip-roaring part of a family, a church, a neighborhood, and a community, becoming invisible is crippling to the psyche.
But one thing I have realized through my journey with invisible illness is that I do not have to believe that I am invisible! Hagar was a woman who felt invisible. She was in such a difficult situation that even though she was pregnant, she ran into the wilderness, hoping to die rather than return to her mistress!
I can definitely relate to her distress and sense of hopelessness, that invisibility that drove her into the desert to die. But then an amazing thing happened . . .we’re talking miracle amazing. God found her there in the wilderness. He came to her, He spoke to her, and He instructed her. He saw her, and He proved that she had value to Him.
And because of this encounter, Hagar gave the Lord a name that had never been used before! She called him El Roi, which means “The God Who Sees.”
That God is the same God who loves us today! Do you ever sometimes feel that your invisible illness has made you invisible? Here’s a tip straight from the Bible: No circumstance in your life will ever make you invisible to El Roi, the God Who Sees! If you are wandering in the wilderness of invisibility, feeling hopeless and unseen, look up and you will see Him there.
He will come to you in your distress, He will speak to you through His Word, and He will show you your value to Him. He sees you. The real you–deep down under layers of pain and illness and fear and frustration–is known by God. He will always make eye contact, He will always have a greeting for you, a smile, and He has no trouble holding a natural conversation with you. You are never overlooked, or out of His line of sight.
Prayer: Lord, thank You for always seeing me, for never turning away, for acknowledging me in the good times and the bad. Help me remember Your unconditional acceptance and love when others grow uncomfortable. Amen.
* The verse that follows our text for today says, “So that well was named Beer-lahai-roi (which means “well of the Living One who sees me”). It can still be found between Kadesh and Bered.” (Genesis 16:14) The picture I’ve included is of the area where this well is located. It exists to this day as a monument to El Roi, the God Who Sees you.
About the author:
Shelly is a wife and mother of 2 amazing kids. She was a teacher and a librarian in another life. She also suffers from IH, IC, and Essential Tremor. She had brain surgery in 2012 and now considers herself to be a ‘bionic woman’ who is learning to walk again. Disability has been hard to deal with, but she depends on God for all strength and hopes to encourage others on this journey, through her blog at http://reneweddaily.com
Kari Jobe sings “Here” in this song that is about laying your burdens down, knowing God is there. Come and rest. It is one of those songs that could be one we listen to each week as we remind ourselves of how God desires us to come to Him. God bless, -Lisa
Do you ever feel invisible to other people? How do you respond? Do you try to make conversation or help them feel more comfortable? How does it make a difference?