Even in a school of 800 pupils — all of whom are rowdily jostling to exit the building at the same time — it is almost impossible to slip away unseen. You can wear black, pick the most fashionable (therefore the most common) backpack, and keep your head right down, sticking to the middle of the crush, and still they can pick you out a mile away.
So it begins.
And this little one ran all the way home.
x x x
Even in a class of thirty children, 29 of whom are more vocal than you, it is impossible to avoid the teacher’s attention. You can sit to the side out of their line of vision, avoid eye contact by staring intently at the textbook, pretend to be taking notes as diligently as you like and the teacher will still summon you to the front to spell onomatopoeia.
The one-trick pony returns, glares scalding the back of her neck.
x x x
I rarely fought with my art teacher — only twice, and both times left me extremely upset. He wasn’t nasty or anything, quite the opposite, we got on like a house on fire. It was just that I had so much respect for him that the conflict was unbearable.
The second time, I was angry with him for putting me forwards for an art award at school because I had painted a rather pretty portrait of my younger brother. Part of the problem was that I couldn’t be bothered going to prize-giving and the other, larger part of the problem was that I didn’t want anyone to notice I could draw because bad things come with attention and there were others who desperately wanted the award.
She won, the other girl, with her still life of some trinkets and shoes and stuff. Although my art teacher was disappointed, it was expected and the girl and I were both happy.
The same happened in Photography.
n. 1. a fear of being looked at, stared at
2. a fear of drawing attention to oneself
To be honest. . .
You may not have heard of scopophobia, but I suggest that more people than you might realise suffer from varying degrees of the latter definition. I didn’t realise until recently that I do. Perhaps you do too.
What brought about this revelation?
Well, someone shared a post I wrote a while back about Why I Love the Church That Raised Me and then someone else shared it and the next thing you know 150+ people have read it and many of those have gone on to read other posts too.
When WordPress alerted me to this, I may or may not have freaked out. It would be a lie to say I didn’t consider beginning a different blog under a new name or just never ever writing like this again. These were pretty serious thoughts. I actually got as far as thinking of a new domain name but I’m actually quite attached to Kumquat Absurdium and that sort of name is difficult to top.
Then, calming down some, this little scopophobic sat down and reevaluated her reaction. But first you need some background.
Some things that happened
The fear of being seen stems in part from my schooldays, days I tend to ignore because I have no desire to talk about them. At that time, to be noticed by my peers was to have water bottles and shoes thrown at me, to be pinched under the table until my eyes watered to see if I would make a noise in front of our teachers. It was to be verbally abused and constantly reminded of my own stupidity, to lose my name and become something less than who I was. And to be noticed by those with any semblance of power was only to make matters worse.
It was kicked, patronised, and cussed into my thinking that to be noticed is not a good thing.
The church has helped with the healing though. I get told off from time to time for growling, but that’s right and good. They’re the best family a soul could ask for. They don’t let me hide, and I’m finding that that makes me less and less anxious as time goes by.
Then, more recently, my friend made me realise that I was hiding from a pair of puddle blue eyes. I doubt she knew but she effectively asked me what my problem was.
My problem was a fear of being seen, a fear of not being allowed to just melt into the background. That shy smile had noticed that I existed and wanted to get coffee and catch up, to talk about church-planting, canoe-building, milkshakes, and odd socks. Perhaps I’ll tell that story another day but for now I’ll leave you to hope that it had the ending that Liesel Memminger and Rudy Steiner never did.
And now, in the last few weeks, we land back here. A post was shared and suddenly so many of you read the words I couldn’t hold inside.
It was scary. I was ready to run again or to fall silent in the hope that you would forget.
Despite the fact I’m overcoming my fear of saying I want to be a writer, the fear remains of being read.
Yes, I understand the irony, but it all comes down to the fear of being seen, you see. I cannot hide behind my pen but rather I am exposed by it.
Re-evaluating the response
We’re not in high school anymore. Day by day I am realising the grip that the past has had on me (in so many things, not just school), and in that recognition comes a loosening of the gnarled fingers of memory.
There was upset and there was panic. Why? Because somewhere along the way the perspective had been skewed. I clutched at this fear of being seen and yet it was not me they saw as they drank in the pages.
They saw the church that raised me. They saw the beauty of their own local church. They read other things and told me how their hearts were broken too, how the time has come for honesty in our Christian lives, how they were reminded that God fights for us in our trials, and how he is, in all things, good.
My heart was filled with thankfulness, my eyes were filled with tears.
I have been compelled to write for longer than I can remember. It’s not obsessive, I just can’t help it. It is a gift from God, and sometimes I need to be reminded of that. Now that I am finally adequate in the craft, it is time to put fear to sleep.
I am not going anywhere.
Those who shared that post didn’t ask. But they did so because they rejoice in what God has done. Is that not the point of all things, whether it be art, music, politics, science, literature, homemaking, school, bricklaying, or whatever good gift God has given you?
In all these things we say to a watching world Look! Look and see. Rejoice in what God has done! Rejoice in what he is even now doing! Is he not abundantly good?
Being afraid of being seen, whether by classmates, the church, or even your boss at work betrays a short-sightedness not worthy of our profession.
Whatever your fear is; fear of man, fear of failure, fear of the unknown, your purpose in life is to glorify God so lay aside your fears. Let us use the good things he has given us to proclaim that glory. Let us stand tall and look the watching world in the eyes and say:
This is God, our God, and he alone is worthy.