The Invisible Self vs Christian Visibility

Being 'invisible' -- so that Christ might become visible through us -- can lead to the attainment of peace, joy and fulfillment.
by Suze Forster | Source: Catholic.net

In a world that tries to convince us that validation and acceptance - even love! - can only be found be making ourselves as visible as possible, it is nothing short of revolutionary to consider that being 'invisible' so that Christ might become visible through us can lead to the attainment of peace, joy and fulfillment.


   ‘Jesus answered, “My teaching is not my own. It comes from him who sent me. If anyone chooses to do God’s will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own. He who speaks on his own does so to gain honor for himself, but he who works for the honor of the one who sent him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him”’. (John 7:16-18)


   There is no greater isolation in life than to be in the world and to feel invisible. Those through whom God moves, in whom the Holy Spirit lives, within whom Jesus finds sanctuary are not recused from this sense of separation from the world and those within it, except that they enjoy one defining factor that those without Christ do not – they do not suffer for it. For when wholeness and life is found in our Redeemer, we long for invisibility of individuality because we actively repudiate and disavow self-recognition and self-promotion in order to allow God to work fully and without obstruction through us to effect His change, grace and glory in the world.


   ‘You do not belong to the world’ (John 15:19). This is the cross taken up by all who devote their hearts, and by virtue of this, their lives to Christ, because to acknowledge that we are not of this world, we deny the world and any desire we may have to make known our own glory or take credit for our own achievements or to be popular or significant in our own right. We deny our very self (with all our agendas, goals, plans, dreams and ambitions) in order to become the chalice of Christ, the vessel into which He pours His divine self fully and through whom He is made visible in the world.


   This claim of ownership that Christ makes upon those who believe in Him frees us from the snares and barbs of the world that promise happiness but ultimately cannot fulfill us – wealth, material gain, power, success. These are the external trappings of earthly triumph, the visible indicators of our ability to conquer, subdue and control the world in which we live. But the world and all that is in it will be swept away, replaced with a new earth, a new kingdom, when Jesus returns to overthrow sin, death and evil once and for all. So essentially these things and our efforts to acquire them are for naught, for they shall all perish when Christ renews all things He has claimed unto Himself all who believe in Him and replaces the treasures of this world with the riches of Heaven.


   So what is there left for us to achieve, to aspire to, to work for and towards? We must work tireless to advance the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven and we do this when we set aside the values the world urges us to embrace (self-satisfaction, excess, personal gain, possession, individual aggrandizement), when we discard those goals and ambitions that are not in step with God’s plan for our lives, and when we surrender our own personal visibility to augment that of our Savior in the commission of bringing to His tender embrace every soul that longs for the lasting peace of reconciliation and reunion with the God of all Creation.


   ‘I have chosen you out of the world’ (John 15:19). We are never truly invisible. Not one thought, not one action, not one word from our lips escapes the notice of God. We are chosen by Him to become the most radiant and fully realized fulfillment of His intended design for us precisely by living through, in and for Him, by becoming the lamp through which He shines His light of forgiveness, acceptance, compassion, and mercifully tender love (Luke 8:16). He did not create us as echoes of His glory, a Creation to mirror His divinity, a lesser reflection of His truer, purer self – He cast us in His own image. His exact likeness. And He who loved us with such incomprehensible inclusion and acceptance chose to prove to us that we are cherished, valued and treasured precisely in the manner in which He chose to render us. In the very likeness of His perfection.


   ‘[Jesus said] “If I testify about myself, my testimony is not valid. There is another who testifies in my favor, and I know that his testimony about me is valid.” ’ (John 5:31-32) Thus we need never feel invisible, for we are cast from His mold, claimed for His work, and make visible His divinity without diminishing our own integrity or value. In fact, our worth is all the more enhanced for having become the vehicle for His work and His Word in the world.


   We live in a world that encourages visibility of every kind – from exhibitionism and extreme extroversion to blogging and social networking sites. The global craving for visibility increases daily, with people resorting to recording outlandish pranks and stunts (as promoted in the Jackass series) and participating in reality TV series (Big Brother), to the more sordid and destructive methods of gaining infamy like engaging in criminal activities in gangs for notoriety or gaining public exposure through the uploading of provocative and indecent images online. Children capture schoolyard fights on their mobile phones and post them to their MySpace and Facebook pages. Spree killers record grim messages of retribution and rage and post them to websites before walking into schools and shopping malls and gunning down bystanders. Advertisements the world over guarantee that if you don’t buy their product you won’t be noticed or popular or look younger or considered fashionable or be admired.


   People equate visibility with validation. If they can make themselves seen to as many people as possible, if they can stand out as much as possible, then they will receive the continual recognition and acknowledgement they so crave. For ours is a world whose mantra is ‘be seen or be forgotten’.

How do we oppose the tide of exhibitionism for its own sake?


   We must start by examining our own hearts – in what are we lacking that we believe we need to maximize our visibility and promote ourselves like commodities to such a degree that we become entirely driven by the ambition to be noticed. It’s simple - we equate celebrity with adoration – and everyone longs to be loved. Except that this form of overexposure that invites such blind mass following and such popularity and envy is not love – it is merely the desire to be as visible as those who are in the spotlight. Admiration and acceptance are seen to be the direct result of celebrity and celebrities are perhaps the most visible people in our present day culture.


   Therefore, what we are missing when we are driven by the compulsion to be as visible as possible is the perceived lack of acceptance and admiration (and ultimately love) in our lives. There is one who accepts and loves us beyond any measure of our human experience of such emotion.

Jesus.


   ‘…whoever comes to me I will never drive away’ (John 6:37). Jesus’ love is unconditional, incomprehensible and vast beyond our frail human cognitive perception. Jesus accepts everyone – the broken, the shamed, the defiled, the lost, the desolate, even the violent and the vile where repentance is genuine and the sinner turns aside from sin. Jesus’ forgiveness is without qualification, absolute and unrestricted. There is no sin capable of being committed by man for which he cannot absolve, no distance man can place between himself and Jesus that the Lamb of God cannot bridge, no former deed, thought or word that cannot be pardoned and forgotten. St Paul is living proof of this. Jesus is creator, comforter, counselor and conductor and His love is so fulfilling and sustaining that it leaves no room for feelings of emptiness and loneliness and isolation. To be filled by the love of Jesus is to no longer desire personal visibility, to willingly and joyfully discard the visible self and experience the perfect peace and spiritual elation of being imbued, pervaded and charged with His Holy Spirit, to become the lamp through which the light of the Risen Christ shines.


   ‘ “No one lights a lamp and puts it in a place where it will be hidden, or under a bowl. Instead he puts it on its stand, so that those who come in may see the light. Your eye is the lamp of your body.” ’ (Luke 11:33-34) When we reject our individuality and any aspirations we have for self-glorification and prominence in order to be filled with the Holy Spirit in the holiest act of faith – allowing Jesus’ light to shine through us – we in fact become exceedingly visible. More visible than we could ever have become on our own. And we are validated, confirmed and substantiated by the only authority in Heaven and on earth that carries any weight or truth – Jesus Christ -  in our very existence. We are the lamp. Jesus is the light. In our eyes (ie, through our words and deeds and the example of our life) the light of Jesus shines out into the world. None can look upon us and deny that we are of God, for God and with God. Whether belligerent or amenable to the presence of God through us, all who know us cannot but know that ours is a life lived in, for and through Jesus Christ.


   Whether hostile or receptive to the presence of the Holy Spirit in us, none who look upon us can deny that we possess a fulfillment, peace, and contentment so greatly lacking in many others, perhaps including themselves. And as thinking, sentient beings, this necessarily invites self-analysis, a plethora of questions and the necessary confusion experienced by those separated from God as to the origins and accessibility of such fulfillment, peace and contentment.


   When simple human curiosity gives rise to even a cursory investigation into the equation of Christianity and the resultant dual effects of happiness and purpose here on earth, this is all the foothold Jesus needs to begin a dialogue with an unbeliever.


   When we reject individuality to become a receptacle for Jesus’ light to shine in the world, we do not become invisible. We merely trade one form of visibility (which can never validate, nourish or sustain the human soul) for another kind of visibility (when we make ourselves the chalice of the bread of life), one that elevates us to the height of our true purpose and in return grants fullness of peace, unfathomable joy, and ultimate sanctification.


   ‘Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come down to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from Heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that anyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day”.’ (John 6:35-40)


   All praise, honor and glory be to Jesus Christ who through our invisibility becomes visible in the world!


   Our ultimate reward is the day of our redemption when He Himself is invisible to us no more and when our cleansed and liberated souls become visible beacons of our faith in Him in the Kingdom of Heaven!

Amen.



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