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I Am Seen

| written by Michele Cushatt | 23 comments

Sofia We all struggle with identity—who we are, why we are, and what we have to offer the world. About the time we find a scrap of worth or significance, something happens to make us fully aware of how much we lack. A harsh word. A rocky relationship. A blunder or failure. Then, in spite of our best efforts at positivity or affirmation, we can’t escape the insecurity and doubt we experience as a result. When it comes to this epidemic of misplaced identity, my friend Michele Cushatt understands the struggle firsthand. Without giving away her story (which you can read in her books), Michele knows what it’s like to lose her footing, and to wonder if she’d ever again be able to stand. But she also know what it’s like to cry out to God for grace and discover the miracle of His Presence and His Purpose right here, right now.

* * *

He stood well over six feet tall, a towering figure of a man, especially to my petite sixth-grade self. Beyond his height, his every physical detail was—how should I say?—breathtaking. Even at twelve years old, I knew my sixth-grade teacher was no ordinary man. Tanned skin, dark hair, killer smile.

Be still my heart.

It wasn’t so much his handsomeness that drew me to him. Although, hello. Truth is I became a forever Mr. Cantrell fan for a different reason.

For the prior five years of grade school, I’d felt invisible. A no-name girl who’d attended three different schools and drifted in and out of classrooms. I did my schoolwork without fanfare, my awkwardness overshadowing any intelligence or personality prepped to bloom. I was an insecure, invisible girl in an Illinois school filled with hundreds of louder, smarter, cuter kids.

But then, sixth grade. And a cute science teacher named Mr. Cantrell.

Within the first few weeks of class, during one of his always-entertaining teaching sessions, he simply asked a question. Then, after searching the faces of his students, his eyes and smile landed on me.

“Michele.”

I must’ve gaped, because he grinned in response.

“Yes, you. What do you think?”

I swear he winked at me, as if we shared a secret. That’s all it took.

In that moment, with this unremarkable exchange of words, the twelve-year-old me came alive. It was as if he knew I held the answer, believed me capable of great things. As if an electric current had traveled from him to me, I felt alive with his confidence. For the first time in my life, I believed in me. No longer invisible, no longer ignored.

Instead, seen.

He continued calling me out of hiding for the rest of the school year. With each interaction, I grew more comfortable in my own skin. It’s one of the few school scenes I still vividly recall. Mr. Cantrell ignited a transformation that changed my story. Simply because he chose to see an invisible twelve-year-old girl.

There’s a similar story in the New Testament that has always intrigued me. The details are recorded in both Mark and Luke, although each account spares only a few verses for the story. It’s short enough to make me wonder at its inclusion in the biblical canon at all. And yet there it is. Twice.

It’s the story of the poor widow. Neither account provides her name, relatives, address, or occupation. This we do know: She’d endured great loss. She had little of value left in this life. And she worshiped God.

On that day, Jesus sat in the temple watching worshipers give their offerings. Before she arrived, the wealthy paraded through, making dramatic show of their generous gifts. Imagine them dropping their coins in the offering one at a time.

Ping! What sacrifice!
Ping! What generosity!
Ping! What devotion to God!

Or not. Jesus didn’t appear to be the least bit impressed.

Until the widow arrived with two small coins. Mark says her “very small” offering amounted to a few cents, not enough for the temple treasurer to buy more incense or feed an orphan child. Like pennies on the sidewalk, hardly worth the effort to stoop and pick up.

And yet this is what she brought her God. Everything she had.

And her God noticed. “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others” (Mark 12:43).

After a series of far more extravagant displays of giving, Jesus noticed the small and invisible. A poor and ordinary woman in a crowd of the righteous and wealthy.

I’ve long been a fan of the underdog. And at Jesus’ words in this story, everything in me wants to stand and cheer. He sees! Jesus sees her! She matters to Him, both her lack and her love pouring out in a sacrifice most of us will never understand. And if Jesus saw her, then maybe He sees me.

The God of the universe, the one who set the stars and sun in the sky, the one who knows the workings of every cell of my body and sparks the grand and glorious display of His creation, sees me. And He sees you.

Eventually sixth grade ended and middle school began. I lost track of Mr. Cantrell, and to this day I don’t know where he is or whether he would even remember the awkward, invisible girl from his sixth-grade science class.

But this I do know: I will never outgrow my place in God’s classroom. He’s the most breathtaking person in the room. I’m smitten. And in an ocean of other names and faces, He sees me.

* * *

These words pulled from the pages of Michele’s most recent book—I Am: A 60-day Journey to Knowing Who You Are Because of Who He Is—were penned during her long and grueling recovery from a third diagnosis of tongue cancer, during which she was permanently altered physically, emotionally, and spiritually. In it, she speaks with raw honesty and hard-earned insight about our current identity epidemic and the reason why our best self-help and self-esteem tools aren’t enough to heal our deepest wounds.

Enter below for a chance to win a copy of the book as well as a set of correlating Scripture cards.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Michele and her husband, Troy, live in the mountains of Colorado with their six children, ages 9 to 24. She enjoys a good novel, a long walk, and a kitchen table filled with people. Learn more about Michele at michelecushatt.com.

comments

Jen: This is such a good reminder to pause and talk with someone. You never know your impact. One time I remember... in the midst of a very long and awful time in my life, I skipped church. And someone called and said "I missed you." How nice to be noticed in the invisible sea of the crazy. Reply

    Michele Cushatt: Such a simple thing, being seen. And yet without it, we disintegrate. Every human needs to know their presence in the world matters to someone else. Often, in the process of seeing someone else, we end up seen ourselves. Reply

Noelle Ammerman: Thank u for giving us this opportunity to win this book. Reply

Pam: Thanks so much for sharing that story, Michelle. We never know the impact left by our simple acts of kindness towards others. You've also reminded me how much more I need to treasure God's attention and approval over that of others. (Why do we do that???) I look forward to your book! Reply

    Michele Cushatt: ME TOO, Pam. It seems I need that reminder nearly every day. Even though I know better, I still chase after man's approval and attention without a thought. Reply

Denise Kennedy: I love books, reading and writing them, but "I Am Seen" stopped me in my tracks on this Irish Monday morning. I already know that it is exactly what I need to read, embrace and share with others. What a great competition, and such kindness by Michelle to offer it to your readers. ♥Blessings and love, Denise Reply

    Michele Cushatt: Reply

      Denise Kennedy: Hi Michelle, I got notification of a reply but there are no words here.. Reply

jane sadowski: not sure exactly what this is for. I have clicked and get no where! Reply

Brandon: I remember just a year or so ago when we were going through a very difficult time trying to find a church where we belong and we visit a church we had visit before and hadn't been there for several months, and the pastor was leaving the sanctuary at the end of the service stopped dead in his tracks, turned around and came to us and told us that he messed us and asked us how we were doing. After leaving a church and spending a year and a half looking at other churches because we felt ignored and didn't feel like we mattered, that was like a breath of fresh air and a confirmation from God that this was where we were going to belong. Reply

    Michele Cushatt: WOW. I hardly know what to say. Such a beautiful moment, and convicting one thousand times over. Thank you for sharing and reminding us of the power of SEEING one another, Brandon. Reply

Teresa Redd: Your story is so inspirational! My oldest brother had throat cancer last year. I am going to share your story with him. Of course, after I read it. 😉 Reply

    Alece Ronzino: Teresa! You're the winner of the giveaway!!! Congratulations! I'll be in touch via email... Reply

Rebekah: That parable of the "little" given by someone seemingly small and insignificant helps me remember that what Jesus values is often so different than what we as human values...and being seen by One who values the invisible is a priceless reminder to who I am in Him - thanks for another dose of the Shepherd's Love, Michele!! <3 Reply

Wendy Pesce: Every time I visit my mom at her memory care facility, I make sure to stop and say hello and take a few,seconds with some if the other residents. To see their faces light up just brings me so much joy. I may visit mom often, but u may be the in my visitor that other resident gets. I know they see me and I know I am giving them a few minutes if companionship Reply

sandy: Sometimes it's just something a smile or slight nod from someone we don't even know. It's that little connection that day that simply makes it easier to keep going. He truly has changed my life. Reply

Elizabeth Brooks: This books sounds wonderful. I love reading books to grow closer with the Lord Reply

Jamie L Herda: The difference between looking at someone....and seeing them. What a great reminder! Reply

kelly woods: I want to brag on my husband a little. My husband is a prison missionary and preaches to inmates over two different states. I know it does my husband's heart good when these inmates get out of jail and see my husband on the streets and tell him the impact that he made on there life. Its really not him but the Lord that lives in Him. But I know it does my husband good and lifts him up especially when he may not be having a good day. And this in turn does my heart good. Reply

Amber Bourland: Many years ago, I lost a son to SIDS. After the funeral and getting back to "normal" life, I got a little sick, went to the doctor and then was waiting in line at the pharmacy. In front of me was a young mother with a baby boy in her arms, about the size of my son. She saw me looking at him so we exchanged pleasantries: how old he was, his name, that this was her first child- all the typical small talk. But at some point, she noticed the tears in my eyes and asked if I was okay. I said I was sick, then turned away, expecting her to ignore me like everyone else did. But she didn't. She asked again if I was okay, and that made me start crying in earnest, so I told her that I had lost my son a few weeks before. She started asking me questions about my Bryan, and listening to me, letting me cry. She cried with me and even let me hold her baby for a few minutes. Of all the people I'd seen since the lost of my son, it took a stranger to really see that I wasn't okay yet, that I needed to talk about my baby and I still needed to cry. Her genuine kindness in an uncomfortable situation has always been a reminder to try to reach out to others when I can see that they are not "okay." Reply

jennifer dunkelmann hon: Ii have been very sick since my daughter was born and we had been trying to find a church when I was feeling ok. We had gone to a few churches and none felt right. Reply

Donna Kozar: Making good grades. It felt good. Reply

Debbie: Our Sunday School class is currently studying about the God that sees me. As I have been putting into practice the art of "seeing" others through the eyes of God, I find myself being less judgmental and more like Jesus Christ. Jesus saw the widow give all she had where as the rich man gave a little out of his abundance. The widow gave from her heart. I want to learn how to give my best each day as the Lord shows me where I can be a blessing to others. Reply

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