Saturday, September 15, 2007

For my fellow cathedral builders... I hope you enjoy this as much as I did!

I'm invisible.....

It all began to make sense, the blank stares, the lack of response,

the way one of the kids will walk into the room while I'm on the

phone and ask to be taken to the store. Inside I'm thinking, "Can't

you see I'm on the phone?" Obviously not. No one can see if I'm on

the phone, or cooking, or sweeping the floor, or even standing on my

head in the corner, because no one can see me at all.

I'm invisible. Some days I am only a pair of hands, nothing more:

Can you fix this? Can you tie this? Can you open this? Some days I'm

not a pair of hands; I'm not even a human being. I'm a clock to ask,

"What time is it?" I'm a satellite guide to answer, "What number is

the Disney Channel?" I'm a car to order, "Pick me up right around

5:30, please."I was certain that these were the hands that once held

books and the eyes that studied history and the mind that graduated

summa cum laude - but now they had disappeared into the peanut

butter, never to be seen again. She's going . she's going . she's


One night, a group of us were having dinner, celebrating the return

of a friend from England. Janice had just gotten back from a fabulous

trip, and she was going on and on about the hotel she stayed in. I

was sitting there, looking around at the others all put together so


It was hard not to compare and feel sorry for myself as I looked down

at my out-of-style dress; it was the only thing I could find that was

clean. My unwashed hair was pulled up in a banana clip and I was

afraid I could actually smell peanut butter in it. I was feeling

pretty pathetic, when Janice turned to me with a beautifully wrapped

package, and said, "I brought you this." It was a book on the great

cathedrals of Europe. I wasn't exactly sure why she'd given it to me

until I read her inscription: "To Charlotte, with admiration for the

greatness of what you are building when no one sees."

In the days ahead I would read - no, devour - the book. And I would

discover what would become for me, four life-changing truths, after

which I could pattern my work: No one can say who built the great

cathedrals - we have no record of their names. These builders gave

their whole lives for a work they would never see finished. They made

great sacrifices and expected no credit. The passion of their

building was fueled by their faith that the eyes of God saw


A legendary story in the book told of a rich man who came to visit

the cathedral while it was being built, and he saw a workman carving

a tiny bird on the inside of a beam. He was puzzled and asked the

man, "Why are you spending so much time carving that bird into a beam

that will be covered by the roof? No one will ever see it." And the

workman replied, "Because God sees."

I closed the book, feeling the missing piece fall into place. It was

almost as if I heard God whispering to me, "I see you, Charlotte. I

see the sacrifices you make every day, even when no one around you

does. No act of kindness you've done, no sequin you've sewn on, no

cupcake you've baked, is too small for me to notice and smile over.

You are building a great cathedral, but you can't see right now what

it will become."

At times, my invisibility feels like an affliction. But it is not a

disease that is erasing my life. It is the cure for the disease of my

own self-centeredness. It is the antidote to my strong, stubborn

pride. I keep the right perspective when I see myself as a great

builder. As one of the people who show up at a job that they will

never see finished, to work on something that their name will never

be on.

The writer of the book went so far as to say that no cathedrals could

ever be built in our lifetime because there are so few people willing

to sacrifice to that degree. When I really think about it, I don't

want my son to tell the friend he's bringing home from college for

Thanksgiving, "My mom gets up at 4 in the morning and bakes homemade

pies, and then she hand- bastes a turkey for three hours and presses

all the linens for the table." That would mean I'd built a shrine or

a monument to myself.

I just want him to want to come home. And then, if there is anything

more to say to his friend, to add, "You're gonna love it there." As

mothers, we are building great cathedrals. We cannot be seen if we're

doing it right. And one day, it is very possible that the world will

marvel, not only at what we have built, but at the beauty that has

been added to the world by the sacrifices of invisible women.

--Nicole Johnson


1 comment:

Donna Geer said...

Thanks for sharing that. I NEEDED that today. Gotta go find the tissues now. Or most likely toilet paper cause I've ran out.........:)
Blessings and you've been in our prayers!!

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