Barb and I are taking a few days off to celebrate our anniversary and we are in Las Vegas. The city is just opening up and the crowds of people have not arrived yet. One of the things I like to do in the morning when we are traveling is to buy a newspaper and read it. National news, local news, the sports section. I like it all. But the place where we are staying does not sell newspapers. However, there is a circle K about two blocks away. Yesterday morning as I walked down the street, I noticed a couple of things. We are one block off the strip, and it is an entirely different world. We can still see the lights and hear the hustle and bustle. We can even smell some of the food offerings from outdoor restaurants.
The first folks I encountered on my walk were camped in a wash. Their “campground” was tidy and somewhat organized. It was clear they had been living there for quite some time. It was early and many of the folks were stretching, trying to work the kinks out after having slept on the ground all night. They watched me walk past and I waved as I went. No one moved. A bit farther down the street I encountered a man who also lived on the streets. He was eating breakfast...whatever he could have found in a dumpster behind one of the strip resorts. As I passed by him, I said good morning. He too stared back but said nothing. It occurred to me that all these folks are usually invisible. Those living in the wash could hide under the bridge, trying to stay safe and out of sight. And the man, even if he was on the sidewalk or street was still invisible to most who passed by.
On my return trip I greeted the man again and he said hi back. Who knows how long it had been since someone had actually spoken to him? And the folks in the wash...waved back! We, as a society tend to make people invisible. The poor, the homeless, the physically or mentally challenged...it is easier if we do not see them. It reminds us that we are called to tend to those who have much less than we do. These invisible people remind us that except for the grace of God, that invisible person could be us.
Perhaps some of us have felt invisible at some point in our lives. In my high school the most popular kids didn't even see the rest of us unless it was time to vote for student council or homecoming king and Queen. Many kids are seemingly invisible in school. Some try to be, and others just are for one reason or another. But while we might feel invisible there is One who always sees us. The Psalmist reminds of this. Psalm 139 begins with these words,” You have searched me, Lord and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.” If you haven't read this psalm, I would encourage you to do so. For anyone who has felt invisible, this makes it clear we are not invisible to God. If we cry, God see our tears. If we cry out, God hears our plea. If we are in pain, God knows that as well.
There are many in scripture who have been invisible too. The lepers and the blind by the side of the road were always invisible. Even when they cried out for help, they were invisible to people. To everyone but Jesus who stopped, gave the blind sight and touched the lepers making them clean. The crippled man who sat on the steps by the beautiful gate at the temple was invisible as well. He sat in the same place every day and soon he became a fixture people did not even see. Sarah’s handmaid Hagar was invisible. She ran away from Sarah because of the way Sarah treated her. An angel of the Lord found her sitting in the desert in the heat of the day, intending to die there. But God saw her in her distress. Isaiah writes these words of God,” Do not fear, for I have redeemed you. I have called you by name; you are mine.” Even if no one else knows who we are. Even when no one else speaks our name, God does. He has both named us and claimed us as His beloved sons and daughters. We are never invisible to God.
Isaiah also records these words. “lift up your eyes and look to the heavens. Who created all these stars? He who brings out the starry host one by one and calls forth each of them by name. Because of His great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.” This is a reminder that no matter what in our lives is making us feel invisible...God still sees. If He knows the stars by name and calls to them, how much more do we matter to him. We are created in His image. He knit us together in our mother's womb. We are each special and uniquely created. God sees the flowers in the field and knows the number of hairs on our heads. The world may not recognize us, but we know the world will one day fall away. God will always recognize us. We will never be invisible to Him. He knows the names of the man I encountered as well as the folks living in the wash. He knows and sees you too.
In His grip
Pastor Matt W