For too long I’ve pulled a protective veil over the mechanism within me that observes how people perceive me or receive me prima fascia. I’ve assumed the majority have a pretty low estimation of me, because that was the way it was the last I checked: grade school, high school and junior high. I was ridiculed hated and even spat upon. Yet what is surprising, especially for those who know me, know I exude self-confidence. And my mother tells me I always have. Upon my entrance to Seminary, my giftings profile test placed self-confidence third from the top. Quite frankly, I don’t know how that happened but obviously, my self-concept is not easily affected by people’s perceptions of me. Formal evaluations are different but I’ve learned to recognize when the veil comes down and others’ voices come to me like sounds under-water. I remember vaguely the first day of college. I was headed to class with my bright blue and pink backpack from Wal-Mart. The fact that I was quite conspicuous in my full-sized bonnet and long-dress, dimly penetrated my veiled consciousness. A deathly silence followed me as I walked down a noisy hall jammed with college students. The whispering—imagined, real—I’m not sure. I only remember walking more purposefully and erect, fixing my gaze on some invisible horizon and lifting my chin a notch, while consciously pulling a heavy curtain more securely around my consciousness. I arrived at my class late. The professor was already lecturing. I scanned the lecture hall for a chair. There weren’t any visible from the door. The lecture stopped. Everyone looked at me. After a silence the professor asked if he could help me. “Is there a seat somewhere?” I asked. “This is your class?” he asked. “Is this Computer 101?” I asked. I didn’t realize the effect of this apparent visual oxy-moron: Amish-Mennonite girl takes a computer class. At the end of the day, I went home. I opened my calculus book and promptly fell into an exhausted sleep that wasn’t even penetrated by my mother calling me to supper.
Recently though, God has been doing something with me. It’s like he’s pulling the curtain back. My reaction to the others’ response to me is quite vivid compared to the previous deadened sensitivity. Sometimes I feel an internal shock, wonder, curiosity, bewilderment, amazement, or even a low level terror to think that I might impact anyone at all. Some people respond to me with a tell-tale nervousness. I’m bewildered by that. Some have flinched—mostly, professors who I’m pointedly requesting something of. I didn’t know I was that scary. Some people seem drawn like a magnet. Some have even said so (as I tried stopping up my ears). Others seem curious or intrigued. That’s just weird to me! I told my friend of 20 some years about my observations. She just laughed at me and said, “Why are you so shocked? Of, course people aren’t going to treat you as though you’re in Jr. High—because nobody’s in Jr. High anymore. That happened 15+ years ago.”
Mostly, I am sobered by the call to respond responsibly and initiate relationships with others and to live and interact with them in such a way as to call them to a higher level of worship. As the church, this is our highest call to each other. As for getting stared at, like that wake of silence I left in college—as the t-shirt I saw says—“Okay, I’m cute. Now quite staring.”. . . No, actually, I’m finding some pretty creative ways of dealing with that.