Making the Invisible Visible

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M_Kathy

A long time ago I read a book that I will never forget, called The Heart Reader. It was independently published and not written all that well, but the premise of it has lingered with me throughout the years. It told the story of a man who, for a short period of time, was given the gift of seeing hearts. When he talks to people, he sees beyond only what’s on the surface or what’s being said and into their hearts, their stories, their struggles, their reality.

They were truly seen.

There are all kinds of things that I could pick apart about why that might feel creepy and weird and I really don’t want everyone I meet to see my heart. But underneath this particular story is something I keep coming back to over and over again in incarnational community with people—all people have a need to be seen.

To be known.

To be understood.

To not be invisible.

I’m not saying we want to (in fact, being seen is often terrifying). I’m saying underneath all of our self-protections, we need to be seen.

I often say that one of the most important parts of our lives as Christ-followers is participating in making the invisible visible.

Of calling out the dignity and beauty and worth of every human being that lived in that city regardless of race, age, gender, socioeconomics, religion, brokenness, weird-life-circumstances or social-acceptedness.

I believe one of the biggest problems in our world–including many churches—is that more people than we’d like to believe actually feel invisible, worthless, purposeless.  

They are not sure they really matter to anyone.

Stuck in shame, hiding, self-contempt, they go through the motions of their day. Some live on the streets. Some live in apartments. Some live in nice houses. Some make a pittance on social security disability income, others make more than enough at their cool high tech company. Some use their money to buy drugs. Some use their money to buy stuff they don’t need to numb their pain. Some go to church every Sunday. Some believe in nothing or are pretty sure if there was a God he has clearly forsaken them.

The problem with invisibility has nothing to do with money or religion.

Invisibility has to do with our disconnectedness to the heart and soul of another human being. 

It has to do with our lack of close relationship with each other, of really truly knowing how our neighbor is doing, what they need, what they dream about, and how we can participate in calling that out in them.

It has to do with our weird prejudices that mean that certain people are acceptable and other people aren’t.

With our busyness and self-centeredness and tendency to hoard, self-protect.

With generations upon generations of invisibility in families with no breaking-the-cycle in sight.

With our fear of truly engaging in the messiest of the messiest parts of other’s lives so we pretend we don’t see, we don’t know, we don’t have time.

With our fear of being known and our tendency to want to somehow stay invisible, too.

Oh, invisibility is pervasive, crippling.

When I think of Jesus, I think of all the ways he made the invisible visible.

He called out the image of God in people.

All kinds of people, from all walks of life: The outcasts, the shamed, the lonely, the confused, the broken, the sick.

He heard their cry. He stopped. He listened. He touched. He offered healing. He noticed.

I have been thinking a lot recently about this reality: we can’t pass on what we don’t know ourselves. We can’t make the invisible visible in others if we are still hiding.

This means we have to continually reckon with our brokenness, our own shame, our own need for healing, our own invisibleness. This is an ongoing, life-long process, but as we are transformed, we get new eyes to see, new hearts to feel, new ears to listen. 

When I look back on my journey, it is so clear that once I started embracing my own story and coming out of hiding about my shame and struggles and desires of my heart, I began to intersect with so many other people struggling with shame, too.

I began to notice what I didn’t see before. And it changed everything.

There’s so much in all of us that resides underneath the surface.

In Africa, a typical hello often translates to “I see you.” It means “you’re not invisible.”

My hope and prayer is that we would be people who would participate in making the invisible visible in the circles we are in.

I can kind of hear Jesus saying, “The kingdom of God is like a person who thought they were invisible and didn’t matter but met someone who saw them, truly saw them.”

SheLoves sisters, first and foremost, you’re not invisible.

Second, what are you starting to see that you didn’t see before in others?

We are called to be people who see, who make the invisible visible in any way we can. There’s so much beauty and dignity out there in men and women and children everywhere, waiting to be revealed.

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Kathy Escobar
Kathy Escobar co-pastors The Refuge, an eclectic faith community in North Denver dedicated to those on the margins of life and faith. She blogs regularly about life and faith at kathyescobar.com and is the author of Down We Go--Living out the Wild Ways of Jesus in Action. She lives in Arvada, Colorado with her husband, Jose, and five kids. Her most recent book Faith Shift can be found on Amazon.com
Kathy Escobar

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Kathy Escobar
  • “Participating in making the invisible visible.”
    This is such a clear-eyed called to follow in the path that Jesus walked when He was on this planet. We are drawn to the pulled-together, the able-to-contribute, the slick and sassy, and it’s likely that this is true because of our own sense of inadequacy. May your words and the heart of Jesus revealed in Scripture draw us into a ministry of revealing the beauty and dignity of the under-appreciated who are mightily loved by God.

    • “we are drawn to the pulled-together, the able-to-contribute, the slick and sassy….” oh, that is so true and such great language. thank you.

  • HeleneBurns

    Kathy – WOW! You put brilliant language around thoughts that feel so familiar to me – every word in here resonates with me so loudly. I will be quoting you in my teaching (and give you the credit of course!) This is such truth: “… one of the most important parts of our lives as Christ-followers is participating in making the invisible visible.’

    Thank you – have a glorious day! xo

    • thanks for sharing! peace to you from colorado. i hope your day is glorious, too!

  • Roos Woller

    Hi Kathy, this rang so true for me this morning: “Invisibility has to do with our disconnectedness to the heart and soul of another human being. ” so good!

  • Leah Kostamo

    I love this — “In Africa, a typical hello often translates to “I see you.” It means “you’re not invisible.” I think of my pastor and dear friend. I think she is such an effective pastor partly because when she looks at people she really looks at them. Her gaze is strong and compassionate and steady. I’m sure for some this is unnerving. But for most (including myself) it is a relief. It is in fact liberating.

    • yes, that kind of connection and “being seen” is so beautifully liberating. thanks for taking time to share.

  • “The problem with invisibility has nothing to do with money or religion. Invisibility has to do with our disconnectedness to the heart and soul of another human being.” You put words and more depth to concepts God is percolating in my heart! Thank you!

    • thanks, julie! i love the word percolating, too 🙂

  • Nicole A. Joshua

    Another post that is so relevant for my country, South Africa, a society that had perfected the art of disconnectedness, a society marred by racism and deep brokenness. I’m going to sit with this post for a while. Thank you Kathy.

    • thanks, nicole. oh, that line: “a society that has perfected the art of disconnectedness…”

  • And some people act out that feeling of invisibility by not eating enough and physically getting smaller. Once I named the feeling of being invisible and discovered I’m not alone in feeling that way I took a huge leap towards healing. Yes to the healing and helping others, I’m with you 🙂

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  • I recently felt led to convey something in words I haven’t been able to in years. It’s the idea of how the physically blind use all their other senses to get to know others. With all the platforms and causes, even in all their importance, if we removed the fig leaves and looked at each other as souls all created in the image of God, how might we see and be seen? It’s a longing we’ve all had since that first bite. Only the Enemy of our hearts tricked us to believe the leaf was necessary. Thanks for sharing your heart here, friend.

  • pastordt

    Oh, I love this, Kathy! Beautifully said — all the pieces of this truth. Our need for it and our fear of it and the awful invisibility of too many people in this world. Thank you for your usual insightful work here. Truly.