I am the girl who nobody knows. The one you’ll see, but barely notice at all. I am part of the background, insignificant even amongst the scenery. I won’t make a difference, not to you, to you it doesn’t matter that you’ll never know me. I am nobody. I am nothing. That, I fear, is how it will always be.
In this world, I feel that we are all scared as to whether we are noticed, as to whether we a recognised, acknowledged by friends and strangers alike. I found the extract above amongst a collection of writings and ideas from several years ago. In my life, I have known what it feels like to believe myself invisible, to have convinced myself that nobody notices me. I see now the irrationality and melodrama in these thoughts. And yet, even if we go unnoticed by our fellow humans, does that matter? I know now that even if I was invisible, unseen by the entire world, this would not take away the fact that God has noticed me. It would not change the fact that God sent his only son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross, to take on our sin, so that we may be forgiven. To take on my sin, so that I myself may be forgiven.
Why have I found favour in your eyes that you notice me – a foreigner.
In Chapter Two of the Book of Ruth, we find Ruth believing herself to be part of the background too. Having arrived in Bethlehem, Ruth asks Naomi if she may go to a field to glean and proceeds to do so. ‘It so happens’ that the field in which Ruth is gleaning belongs to Boaz, a kinsman of Naomi’s husband. Upon returning his field, Boas announces ‘The Lord be with you’ and asks his servant as to who new arrival is. He then approaches Ruth and addresses her, offering his support and protection.
My daughter, listen to me. Don’t go and glean in another field and don’t go away from here. Stay here with the women who work for me. Watch the field where the men are harvesting, and follow along after the women. I have told the men not to lay a hand on you. And whenever you are thirsty, go and get a drink from the water jars the men have filled.
Ruth demonstrates her shock at having been noticed and humbly asks why. Boaz speaks of her faith and of her wish to follow God. She is noticed for her silent service to God.
I’ve been told all about what you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband—how you left your father and mother and your homeland and came to live with a people you did not know before. May the Lord repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge
Boaz gives Ruth food, perhaps giving a woman who has experienced hunger throughout her life the first experience of fullness. He gives her protection, safety, a position of stability. He gives and gives and gives, just has God has given and continues to give to us.
Jonty began the sermon at The Globe Church by showing us the events of Ruth, Chapter Two with a significant awareness that every detail is orchestrated by God, that Ruth’s story rests in the hands of God. An idea re-emphasised God in the sermons of our Christian Union weekend away. Both preachers explained how God is at work in us, even when we do not notice, how God is in control of both His greater plan and in every detail of our lives. And yet how God’s will does not bypass human decision. Ruth is an ordinary person, making ordinary decisions and yet God is doing extraordinary work through her, God is at work through Ruth’s decisions. Ruth is to become part of the line the line that will lead to the birth of Jesus. She is part of God’s greatest plan.
In both cases, the sermons spoke of how Ruth is noticed by Boaz, by God, not because she is worthy, but because of the boldness of her faith and the strength of her trust in God. Ruth is seen as an outsider, she has not been excepted into society, she is often referred to as ‘the Moabite’. To others her lack of belonging may define her. But God looks far beyond this, God sees Ruth’s willingness to follow him. He notices her and He provides. A strong image of God’s protection is described: ‘under whose wings you have come to take refuge’. Ruth is rewarded for finding refuge in God. God does not simply notice her, He cares for her as a parent cares for their child.
And once more, we must remember the extent to which Jesus is alive in every part and every page of the Bible. Jonty was certain to remind us that the Book of Ruth does not only show how Boaz noticed Ruth, but how Jesus has noticed us. Jonty speaks of how Jesus made the decision to come down from heaven to know us and to protect us, and how he has been and will continue to be generous to those who deserve nothing. It is not because we are worthy that Jesus died on the cross to save us. We are foreigners to Jesus, I see myself as sinful, unclean, and yet he notices us because of our faith. Jonty summarises Christ’s compassion for us…
I love you. I noticed you.
This image had a profound impact on me. To a girl who has seen herself as invisible, the fact that Jesus notices me, that Jesus will not turn away from me, will not be ashamed of me, is a refuge and a security that I could never have expected. I am reminded of moments of friendship in my favourite book that showed me, as a child, what it truly feels like to be noticed, acknowledged, recognised; when Harry firsts meets and befriends Ron on the Hogwarts Express, when the two accept Hermione as their friend when they, together, defeat a mountain troll. I see, in my own life, the friends that God has given me. Those in my life that have noticed me, have reached out for me, and in certain cases, have shown me how Jesus has always been calling me home.
The painting below is a further creative response to the Book of Ruth, a contribution to The Globe Church’s Evening of Art and Music this Thursday. The collection is made up by moments and photos that I feel represent what it is to be noticed. Many of the pictures show the person unaware of the camera, and all have obscured faces. I hoped that through this I would be able to show how, though we may not have realised and though we may not yet have understood, God notices every individual and we need only acknowledge Him and accept His love
And so, as I wonder at how amazing it is that God has noticed me, that God has noticed you, I am reminded of the note upon our sermon at The Globe Church was brought to a close. I was hit with the feeling, the emotion, the beauty and the urgency of the message. If God has noticed us, has reached out for us, has protected and shown love for us, then isn’t it our duty to reach out for others? Isn’t it our duty to recognise those who are ignored in our society and to notice them, to love them, as our father in heaven loves us?