Recently, a Facebook conversation turned into a discussion over when we feel “invisible” while driving. It started innocently enough. I commented on how people seem to “not see” me when I am driving our family vehicle (which happens to be a 12-passenger van). My mom said she feels invisible when she drives their white car, especially in the winter. It was interesting to see the different perspectives and when people feel safer or less visible, but it got me thinking.
Obviously, I’m not invisible in my big van. My sister had an interesting perspective. She commented that she didn’t think it was a certain kind of car or person that goes out of turn at 4-way stop or cuts people off at an intersection. Her thought was that many people become wrapped up in their own world, their own problems, their own lists and agendas and schedules. This preoccupation can affect anyone. The rest of the world can disappear when we focus only on ourselves and our problems.
I think she hit the nail on the head. I know I have a list, either in my head or on a dry erase board, of tasks and things to accomplish every day. Some days my list can be fairly detailed, down to making sure I remember to make lunch. My phone has multiple alarms set to make sure I pick up this child or drop that one off at the right time. I know there are days where I get caught up in checking off the list, clock-watching, and even driving on autopilot.
Lately, I have been thinking about who or what I am truly serving. My day starts each morning with a fervent but quick prayer before I even open my eyes. I ask God to show me His will for the day and guide through following it. Then my feet hit the floor, and the day starts. Do I stay true to His nudgings, listening to the guiding I ask to receive? Or do I bulldoze forward with what I know needs to be accomplished for the day?
As I am driving, do I see the look of worry on my fellow driver? Am I aware that the car next to me may be in a hurry to see a loved one in need? Or am I so wrapped up in getting where I am going and crossing off the next item on my to-do list that the world around me and even God become invisible to me? Am I serving God or my to-do list?
When it becomes more important to cross off the whole list than it is to serve the people God has put in my path for that day, including my own children, I need to step back. I need to see, truly see, what my little one is trying to show me when we sit down to look at her school papers. I need to take a deep breath and let her go minute-by-minute through her day when she wants to. She needs to know that I am truly present to her, that she is important to me in that moment. The love I feel for her and how important she is to me isn’t going to be relayed if I am checking that list while she talks or shows me her papers. Sometimes, I think God is showing me it is time to race through that list and definitely get some tasks accomplished. Other times He is trying to get me to stop, listen to those around me, and truly see life as it is happening. Yes, even life can become invisible when we get too focused on tasks instead of people and love.
The to-do list is important. The tasks are important. One way I serve my family is to make sure that the dishes and laundry are mostly caught up. Do my children and husband see the tasks I accomplish on a daily basis? Well, they do and they don’t. They know their clothes are washed or that the sink is clear. They can open the cabinet and see that we again have food when I make it to the grocery store. What else do we do that seems to go unseen? So many daily activities are taken for granted – dishes, laundry, grocery shopping. The magic fairy comes in and does that right?
Most moms will say they don’t keep up the housework or get the food for the recognition. However, when we begin to serve the housework or the to-do list rather than our Lord, we need to take a step back. A sign of serving the to-do list or the housework can be the world or even our family becoming invisible. Sometimes it can be the seeking of recognition. I know I have been guilty of saying to my family, “Do you know all I do in a day?” Please tell me I’m not the only one! Usually, followed by a pang in my chest because my goal is not to seek recognition from them.
As we prepare for Lent this year, I am setting myself a goal to live more deliberately; to not focus so much on accomplishing the to-do list. Instead, I am hoping to prayerfully focus more on living, on loving, on being in the moment with my family and friends. Instead of thinking of a million things I should be doing, I want to embrace the moment to truly be present to those around me. But how? How do we find the balance between keeping a busy household running and not succombing to serving our tasks rather than our God and family? For me that is the million dollar question. One I need to pray about, discern, seek to answer day-by-day and even moment-by-moment.
At the moment I am typing with my youngest asleep in my arms. As I gaze at his sweet face, I know it is a balance worth finding. I also realize that it is not a balance that is achieved and kept. Life is fluid, ever-changing. To stay centered on serving God and my family, I must continue to pray, continue to be flexible in that balance so that life stays visible, my children and husband stay visible. When I go into autopilot, letting the car drive back and forth to my usual destinations without much conscious effort from me or simply “mm-hmming” my children or husband as they tell me about their day or when my prayers become rote and lose their meaning, I lose sight of the important parts of life. They become invisible, just as the people God has put in my path become invisible. If I’m not careful, I become invisible. It is definitely worth living deliberately, living visibly, living for God by serving others.
When I sat down to type this post, I thought I was going to only talk about how the things we do as moms can be invisible and how that’s ok. The recognition comes not in this lifetime; it comes in the lives our children lead or in heaven. While that is true, it is not where God wanted this post to go. Reflecting, I can see that while true, it is only part of the story. I need to be a visible presence to my children, truly present emotionally and physically in the ordinary day-to-day, to help them to realize their potential and worth.
Mother Teresa said, “We shall not waste our time in looking for extraordinary experiences in our life of prayer but live by pure faith, ever watchful and ready for His coming by doing our day-to-day ordinary duties with extraordinary love and devotion.”
Psalm 139:1-3 LORD, you have probed me, you know me: you know when I sit and stand; you understand my thoughts from afar. You sift through my travels and my rest; with all my ways you are familiar.
In the midst of your busy day-to-day, how do you keep life from becoming invisible? What do you do to stop yourself from going into autopilot? I think the how is different for each person. I would love to hear your perspective.