I love working in Photoshop; in fact, it is one of my favorite parts of my job. I get to take images and pull out the beauty from them, add text or graphics, and create. The way the program works though took me a while to get used to since it is very much unlike how I learned to create art by hand. The program uses layers to manipulate the images and that pull together at the end to create a finished product.
It’s eerily reminiscent of life in general. We don’t see all the layers of a person’s life at first glance, just the sum of everything. It’s even possible for us to turn off a layer so it isn’t immediately visible to those around us.
I’ve been feeling like one of my layers has been turned off: my fibromyalgia. It’s in the class of illnesses that is called invisible illness, because while I look healthy, it’s something that permeates my life.
We all have invisible layers. It might be like a disease like mine, maybe even fibro, or something else you struggle with or something you try to hide.
It’s what makes authenticity so hard. We might voluntarily turn these layers off for a little bit because we want to enjoy feeling “normal” for a little bit (despite the fact there really is no such thing); it’s perfectly natural to want a respite from an aspect of our life that filters everything else.
It’s also what makes it really hard for people to understand, especially in the case of chronic illness.
Most people don’t see me when I’m sick and having bad days. Those are spent at home, resting, and in pain. They see me when I’m out, but they don’t see how I pay for it later.
Admittedly, I overdid it this weekend. I had a great time Saturday hanging out, but I was spent by the time I got home. I started volunteering again at church on Sundays so I was exhausted afterwards and had to sleep. Pain keeps me awake at night often so vicious cycles often ensue: I came down sick.
I say all this not to complain- not at all! I’m saying it because I think it is something really important for us to talk about more. We live in a time when the CDC says one in two people have a chronic illness. Autism levels are still climbing and we doubt they will peak anytime soon. Learning disabilities, addictions, difficult pasts, and hidden stresses are all things we can’t necessarily see on our friends’ faces. This doesn’t mean they aren’t there though.
We can’t afford to act like they aren’t.
I routinely get glares from people who think I should be able to do more. Just this week someone decided to sit with his blinker on, signaling that he wanted the parking space next to me. The problem is that I was loading my toddler and preschooler into the car and groceries so my door was open. So rather than getting the next available space only about five stalls away, he kept inching forward hoping, I suppose, to get me to move faster.
I hate inconveniencing people so I hurried, but seriously, I shouldn’t have. I put more stress on my joints so that evening walking was really painful.
I think this world would be a much better place if we assumed the person who is inconveniencing us has a legitimate reason for doing so… especially if we can’t see it.
Because when we don’t, they feel even more invisible.
Because these invisible layers seem to become the only relevant layers in our lives some days. Painful.
It is so ironic that pain tends to isolate us since we all experience it. Every single one of us.
The answer is compassion. We need to espouse the same degree of concern for others like Jesus had when He told the disciples to let the children come to Him, when He ate with the tax collectors and downtrodden of the day, and when he picked for His inner circles those who were of no particular importance. Jesus valued people. He valued them enough to die for them. Our inconvenience pales in comparison.
I’m sure we all know people who are hurting right now, even if they aren’t showing it. In spite of invisible illness and pain, we need to make everyone feel visible.
If only it was as easy as it is in Photoshop where all it takes is a click of a button. It’s worth it though: Jesus definitely thought so.
If you know someone who struggles with an invisible illness, I know it would make them feel so loved if you ask how you can support them; prayers, friendship, even just someone to be normal with for awhile are so appreciated. If you have one, feel free to share this and start a discussion. I’ve seen amazing communities develop this way just beginning by turning all the layers on.
Thanks so much for stopping by! I’m excited to announce that I finally have set up a Facebook page for Uncommon Grace! I’d love to have you Like it here! Thank you!