Friday, May 15, 2015

Do you ever feel invisible?

I have often gone through times where I've struggled to feel connected to people around me, starting way back when I was a little girl trying to make friends in a tiny Vermont elementary class of ten kids (in a room that included two grade levels). I now realize that I'm a mix of introvert and extrovert, and that mix of desiring to be around people and yet feeling inwardly shy and withdrawn has caused me a lot of confusion. I struggle to reach outward in love without being overburdened by fear of what others think of me.

I have often felt like an outsider. I used to think I was the only person going through this. My world was so little, and sometimes the loudest voices in it were the outgoing people who didn't seem to struggle with connecting. I felt like the only invisible person in a crowd of people who were comfortable with themselves. It was like there was a wall between me and everyone else, and I was made to watch through the window and sometimes briefly interact before retreating back into my own little bubble.

I'm growing, little bits at a time, and I am starting to learn that there are so many different kinds of people. God made an incredibly diverse world. He made many outgoing people and he made many shy people. Some of us will always be more reserved and less able to live and laugh loudly and publicly without overthinking.

And that's okay. As long as I am not using these attributes of myself as an excuse to avoid doing what I am supposed to do, I am not sinning by remaining a little quieter, a little more reserved, and a little less outgoing than many of the people I admire and work alongside. In fact - and this was a little surprising to me at first - I am starting to realize that God made me this way on purpose, with a plan.

God has made others like me. There are others who can feel alone in a crowded room, who don't know how to step out and become part of a group, and who feel a little socially awkward when everyone else seems polished and well-spoken. There are others who tend to feel like outsiders. There are others who sometimes feel invisible. By making me one of those people, he has given me the tools to reach those people.

Ever feel like you're alone in a crowd?

I used to wait for someone else to reach out to me. I spent a lot of time hoping for gestures I never received. I have let myself feel unloved because of this.

Now, though, I'm trying to look outside myself with eyes more ready to see the people around me and feet more ready to take the first step. I know what would make quiet, reserved me feel loved and wanted, even on my quietest days. I know what would make me smile and brighten with feelings of being appreciated and valued. I don't need someone to do those things for me. I need to use those desires as a tool in my approach to others like me. I'm not there yet, but I'm growing daily and finding my confidence in the worth and approval I have gained through Jesus, rather than approval from other people. But there are a lot of people who haven't started down that road yet, and I can help them take first steps by helping them feel love and worth.

The things I have desired from others are good things. They are things that I can do for others like me.

I can be the person to approach the one in the corner of the room and start a safe and comfortable conversation. I can step out and offer friendship to someone who hesitates to join in, because I'm right there next to them on the outskirts of the conversation, hesitating too. I can show the young mama the gestures of love and appreciation I have craved. I can welcome the new family in town, the parents of the brand new baby, the foster parents with the difficult court date or the new placement. I can bring the flowers, drop by with dinner, offer a coffee date, babysit the kids, or send a note with words of encouragement. I can pray and follow up and reach out in love.

I can push myself to be the one who reaches out. I can do for others what I wish someone would do for me. I can encourage another. And ultimately, I can find my worth and value in Christ, whether or not I receive the same efforts in return. Every good and perfect gift comes from God above, who never changes. May I use my time, efforts, and affections to bring him glory and help others feel loved and accepted by God as I have felt loved and accepted.

I have to make choices in this. I can't be the one to reach out to everyone. I don't have the time, although I wish I did. But I can always have in mind a few people I am choosing to intentionally invest in, and a few little ways I am loving on the people around me. I can do the big things for those few, follow up in little ways with a larger circle of friends, and reach out with little notes, texts, or prayers of encouragement when my resources feel drained or my time feels too limited. It never takes more than a few moments to jot down the note that's already in my head, or to pray for the person I'm already thinking of... even when the budget gets tight!

Isn't God great, to have made us all so unique? I want to try to embrace my personality type and lay it at his feet as the best I have to give. I want to stop being inwardly focused and start embracing my desires as clues for how to reach out to others.

When I feel invisible, I will try to look around the room, move past myself, and take a step toward someone else in order to meet their needs, instead of focusing on my own.

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