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November 2, 2019

Silver Glasses

Today I am feeling small and sad. Insignificant. Not special.
5 min read

Today I am feeling small and sad. Insignificant. Not special. And it’s not because I’m being battered by a storm in my life, or drained by a crisis afflicting someone close to me. No one is acting hateful towards me, and aside from some sleep disturbances, my mental and physical health remain pretty good. My son has transitioned well to his much larger new school (a change that was totally stressing me out after four years at his old school) and my husband continues to thrive at work after some major transitions of his own. I’ve just finished a writing project that I felt was important to complete, and have started running again—little jaunts around the neighborhood that exercise my muscles and ease my mind. The trees have begun to display their autumnal palate, leaves turning yellow, orange and gold. Unlike other, hard-pressed seasons of my life, I have only to stretch out my hand to touch plenty of blessing. No digging around required.

Then why do I feel like a goldfish stranded in a bowl with barely any water? Here I lie, beached on a mound of gravel, mouth gaping open and closed as I strain­—bug-eyed—for every breath. What gives?

My distress may have something to do with the heart-to-heart I had with God yesterday. They can be dangerous things, those intimate times of journaling I attempt on Sunday afternoons. Stuff comes out that I didn’t know was there. Stuff with sharp edges and inky depths. Toxic stuff that’ll make your eyes water and vision blur. Stuff that sticks and stinks, like tar. Can’t just rinse it off. Has to be exorcised, like a demon. Hence the writing— an attempt to trap the elusive malevolence within the confines of the page.

Yesterday I was revisiting the topic of not being known by my father when I was growing up. And by that I mean, him taking zero interest in the gifts and aspirations of his children or wanting to help them develop as unique, divinely-designed individuals. The subject came up because I have been struggling before God as a writer, trying to understand whom I am called to address and what I am called to say. Instead of confidence that my Maker is fully invested in helping me find my way, I feel a great big blank, having no experience of an earthly father to inform my understanding.

What made yesterday’s “hitting-the-blank-wall” so difficult was that something actually lay on the other side of it, something I broke through to for the first time. And it was this: when my father chose not to know me, not to pursue me as a person, he was in essence rejecting me. Now, compared with all the abuse I suffered at his hands over the years, this rejection may seem like a small thing, maybe even a good thing. After all, who wants to be tracked with interest by someone with the power (and tendency) to hurt you quite profoundly?

And yet.

And yet it is impossible to be rejected on any level by a parent without repercussion. Pain, most obviously, but also an accompanying conviction that the neglect stems from the fact that one is not really worth knowing.

So, in addition to having the label “abused” stamped across my virtual forehead, I now also have “rejected.” And, it burns like a brand, this newest word, because I comprehend so little of what it really means. That’s how it so often works with me. My emotions keep me in a choke-hold until I can name where they come from, what they’re doing, and how I can respond so that life, rather than death, results from all the introspection.

As I ponder my father’s rejection of me, a recent incident keeps coming to mind, insisting that I give it some attention alongside the troublesome label. On a recent trip to the optometrist’s office, I asked one of the opticians if she had any silver glasses similar to what I was already wearing. I needed a new prescription filled, and liked my current pair so much that I wanted to get another just like it. After checking the store’s inventory and finding none, the optician suggested that I try on some plastic frames as an alternative. When I, too, came up empty handed, we both sat down at the counter so that she could order new lenses for my old frames, which I had decided to reuse. That’s when a little story came out that briefly lit my soul like a falling star.

“I remember these frames,” the optician said, as she took them from me and turned them over, inspecting them. “They’re quite beautiful and arrived in three colors: silver, gold and brass. I noticed the silver pair sold out immediately, and there was only one of them in stock. That must have been you who got them.”

Yes, I replied. I had purchased them the previous spring to go to a highly formal wedding. I had recently  undergone eye surgery and had not wanted to wear contact lenses to the black tie affair. Finding those sterling frames had allowed me to face the night with confidence, feeling safe in terms of my corneas but still graceful in terms of my countenance. After exchanging a few more pleasantries, we parted ways, me feeling vaguely lucky that I had managed to snag that single pair of silver glasses precisely when I needed them. That office gets a lot of traffic. Another customer might have snapped them up first. Or I might have been helped by a different optician, who might not have known or shared their special history.

Now, as I literally stare at the screen through the spectacles in question, I feel a small but important insight trying to get born. Someone wanted me to have those glasses. Someone who knew how much they would bless me. Someone who knew that I tend to feel insecure about my appearance at dress-up events, and also knew that I like to wear silver jewelry on a near-daily basis. Someone who also knew that I would put two-and-two together and realize that although I may have been rejected by one father, I have been specially chosen by another. Chosen for a specific purpose and destiny, though I may not glimpse the whole of it yet. And this other father doesn’t want to miss a single opportunity to interact with me, whether I am darting hither and yon in open waters or struggling to breathe in a bowl. This other father gets me. And, dare I say, feels like he GETS me, gets to have me as his own. A child he will never grow bored of, whose hurts will never prove tiresome. An individual he wants to increasingly shape into a uniquely gifted and clear-eyed person, confident in her heavenly father’s love.

It’s so easy to feel like an insignificant loser. Someone who doesn’t matter in either the small or big picture. We grow tired, discouraged, disoriented. Our pasts come back to haunt us, pour poison in our ears. Pause, if you can, and try to remember when someone showed that they cared about you, empathized with you in some small way. Perhaps these words are your bits of proof today—that someone wants you to be encouraged and know that you matter so much. That the labels on your forehead are Prized and Special and Loved.

I’m not being sentimental, but truthful. You are meant for something real and good in this life. Believe it for me and I will believe it for you.

And hopefully, as we hold up our gems of memory—like tiny torches— in some of our darkest places, we can help each other to find our way home.