The Wow Factor

Stage photo by Alan Cleaver 

On an evening such as this, it’s hard to tell if I exist.
If I pack the car and leave this town, who’ll notice that I’m not around?
(Pinch Me lyrics)

One of my favorite songs has a vulnerable – and yet somehow catchy – line that seems to come out of nowhere, just moments after describing simple pleasures like running through the sprinkler and taking long naps.

But isn’t that how insecurity and fears are? Coming at us when we least expect it, slamming into our hearts and shadowing our minds before we even know what hit us?

Last week I auditioned for a solo at church. For nine months, I’ve known that I wanted to sing a certain song at the Christmas program, and Thursday was my day to make that happen.

Things did not go as planned.

I was ridiculously nervous. I don’t know why I get like that. I’d rather sing to a huge group of people than to one person. Perhaps that’s because those large groups tend to come with spotlights and stages that blind my eyes and hide that crowd.

But even though I finally scrounged up the nerve to sing, my choir director was not bowled over by my talent . . . by me.

There’s something a bit magical about singing in an empty auditorium and hearing your voice echo off the concrete walls. As my last note faded, I opened my eyes and waited.

Honestly? I think some arrogant part of me was expecting my choir director to say, “Wow! Why haven’t you sung a solo before?”

That question, of course, would allow me to feign humility at the same time I described every solo I’ve had since I was 13 and singing with the youth choir.

I said I was arrogant.

As you might have guessed, that wasn’t his exact reaction. It was more along the lines of, “Okay, yeah, I’d like to hear more. Why don’t you practice and try it again in a few weeks?”

Um, what? Where was the “wow”?

I didn’t hear a “wow” that night. And it wasn’t until I could feel the tears pushing on the backs of my eyes, threatening to humiliate me right there in church, that I realized how badly I needed to hear a “wow.”

I needed someone to tell me I was good at something.


Can you tell me what was ever really special about me all this time?
(How Far We’ve Come, Matchbox 20)


See, I’m at a weird place in life right now. For some reason – God’s reason, I am confident – I’m not being allowed to use my gifts. Or, at least, not in the ways that I want to or the ways I had planned.

And that is hard, let me just tell you. See, I’ve taken the spiritual gifts tests, I know my Myers-Briggs personality type, I’ve had certain skills confirmed by others. I know what I’m good at.

But nobody seems to care these days. And even though I know that this place in my life is part of God’s design and that the refining will eventually create something beautiful, I forget.

I forget that I am loved by the Creator himself, and I start thinking that maybe I’m not so special after all. Maybe I can’t write. Maybe I don’t have leadership skills. Maybe I’m not smart. Maybe I’m boring. Maybe I’m not cut out for this. Maybe I should just quit.

Maybe I can’t sing.

Once the doubts have taken over, then I start asking the big questions: Do I even matter? Am I special? Would anyone notice if I just disappeared?

Thankfully, the conversation doesn’t stop there.

God answers, every time. And He says: I see you. I notice every little thing about you. I made you. You are wonderful. I love you.

The truth…


I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
(Psalm 139:14)


For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works,
which God prepared in advance for us to do.
(Ephesians 2:10)


In other words, God looks at me, and He says, “Wow.”

Have you ever felt invisible? Have you ever wished you could use your gifts more – or differently? How do you overcome the fear of not mattering?

by Mary

  • Kristen – Moms Sharpening Moms

    I memorize 2 Corinthians 10:5: “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

  • Marilyn

    Are you a CAREGIVER?
    The two times I felt this way most strongly I was in the midst of caregiving, first for my young children and later walking alongside a family member diagnosed with cancer. VERY important work, VERY important ministry, both…but both very invisible (if feels). And there IS a need to be seen and counted.
    I saw a need for some type of recognition or acknowledgement rise up in me and it took me by surprise how strong it was. I had to keep coming back to the truth that God is not only the giver of gift, but that He sees them through to completion in us (Phil. 1:6). He will!
    These were both fabulous types of growth for me, but in the midst of it, it had a wilderness “feel.” I think it’s quite common and an unspoken need (we are ashamed to feel this way). You’ve done a great job conveying it. I hope it brings others out. There is freedom in admitting what is true.

  • thegypsymama

    You speak such truth, friend. We all have a screamy toddler inside us yelling for attention, recognition, love. It’s hard to comfort it with Scripture when a pat on the back from another human being is so much more tangible. It’s hard. Thank you for reminding us that we are not alone.

  • Elaine

    Mary, I am so there right now! After 8 years of voice lessons, soloing in church, singing on praise team, our music minister left. Our fill-in was our pastor, who used me for singing ZERO times in over 2 years. Then when we finally get a new worship leader, I have to wait for auditions, give it my “ALL,” and wait for the call. Only to be told that there’s too much vibrato in my voice, to work on dialing it back, and we’d see in a few months.
    My gifts? Service – that one I’m sure of. My voice – that one I thought was a Gift in my adulthood. So, when my gifts aren’t being used, I’m feeling invisible!!!!
    I spent the summer in Bible study – Jennifer Rothschild’s “Me, Myself, & Lies” and Beth Moore’s “Get out of that Pit!” – both of which helped immensely. BUT, I still struggle with these feelings of worthlessness & invisibility. I’d love to hear others’ wisdoms on this one. Thank you for sharing.

    • Linda

      I am nobody. Nobody is perfect, therefore I am perfect.
      Just a little reminder to not be discouraged but sing to your hearts content in other ways. Could be the choir leader needs to relax a bit and let everyone have a chance at “glorifying the Lord” in song.
      Praying for the music leader will change things for you.

  • Shady Lady

    Maybe your most important talent is honesty.
    It is so hard to just be honest and share our weaknesses and insecurities before others. But we forget how refreshing it is to hear them, to remove the veil of perfection we all are wearing.

  • Shirley

    Can I ever relate to this! Thank you! I needed this today!

  • Stephanie

    When you said that this season of life you feel like God wasn’t allowing you to use your gifts all I could think was, “ME TOO!” Thank you for posting today. Beautiful encouragement to my heart for the morning.

  • mary bailey

    I echo Stephanie above who said “Me too” about God not allowing me to use my gifts during this season of my life. That’s me, too! I wonder and wonder why…and then He’s good enough to inspire someone like you to share your personal story and be vulnerable in front of the world. We *ALL* need to hear “Wow” sometimes, and sometimes we crave it from the world so much, we forget that God is saying it all along. Thank you, Mary. This was a beautiful post.

  • carrien (she laughs at the days)

    I find that when I just settle in, and do my best to be faithful with the things that I do have to do, we all have them, that my feelings of insignificance go away. The more I focus on doing a good job with what He has given me to do the less I am thinking about the things I want to do and think I should be doing instead.
    There is a lot of peace that comes with this, especially in terms of feeling significant. I’ve learned that it’s true. If I am faithful in the little bit that he gives me, more will be added, beyond what I could have imagined.
    Also, have you read the essay, Eternal Weight of Glory by C.S.Lewis? One of the more interesting bits in there is where he tries to understand what glory is. He concludes that part of it is for us to hear Him say, “Well done.” The need to hear “wow, good job” isn’t bad. It’s built into us, and it is part of our reward in heaven. The only problem is when we try to get that need filled by other people instead.

  • Hillary @ The Other Mama

    Oh, Mary. I know this feeling so well. And I love the comments, so far. We DO all have that toddler in us wanting attention. And sometimes for me, I get offended if I don’t get it or have the control that I want in the situation. Ugh. I know it’s my weakness, but it STILL happens. I don’t know why I can’t learn this silly lesson!!! Good grief. I need to start praying, “Please, Lord, don’t force me to learn this lesson again!!”.
    Love you. Thanks for your honestly. :)

  • Kristine McGuire

    I can honestly say I know EXACTLY what you have described in your blog. I have been experiencing that in my writing. I went through that years ago when I tried out for a permanent position on a praise team I’d been subbing over a year for and was told I had a “spirit of performance”.
    Totally understand. Isn’t it wonderful to know God made us, loves and is proud of us? It can be hard to wait on His plan when we have our own agenda or desires, but always better in the end.
    Thank you for this reminder.

  • Becca

    Oh I love this post my friend! It goes right along with the Esther study this week (and Haman, who is arrogant, being in all of us, at least a little bit!) I know for me, it’s so hard to remember that the approval and acceptance of GOD is really the only thing that lasts – and the only thing that matters!

  • jennifer

    Thank you for this post! And Marilyn, I feel “seen” just by you recognizing out loud that as caregivers it is normal to have this unrelenting inner request for someone to see what I am doing! (I stay home with my three babies under 4 years old and have never felt this far from God and such a need for others approval) I think it is about growing to be more like Christ and find our duties and approval from the Father, alone. Thanks for the encouragement!

  • Sarah Mae

    Oh friend, your sweet little baby would know if you disappeared, and I bet she loves that lovely voice of yours. ;)
    Great post!

  • Kat

    I’ve been wrestling with the issue my self. The areas of church where I was able to use my God given abilities seemed to evaporate. For a while it felt as if everything I put my hand to failed. Even reading scriptures wasn’t as encouraging as it should have been. It seemed like hollow words bouncing off this depression that has come into my life. It helps to know that I am not the only one that struggles. Thank you for being open.

  • Ginny

    I hear you loud and clear (with perfect pitch I might add). Thanks for the post. I feel like that more often than I would like to admit. Good thing God sees us.

  • Kristin Lewis

    This hits home for me. I am a photography student, and we just had a critique. I tried really hard on my photos and was super excited about them, but when I put them up beside my classmates I felt so inferior. I expected and wanted people to tell me how wonderful they are and how good of a photographer I am, and that didn’t happen. I went home that day feeling crushed, and honestly, ready to give up my major. And I cried and I prayed and then I realized that I shouldn’t put the emphasis of my art on myself I should use it to impact the world and make God happy. And it was a strange relief.

  • Sharon

    Thank you for speaking to my heart. So many times I find myself looking for the ‘Wow’ factor instead of the God factor. When I start praising Him, everything falls in its proper perspective.

  • Jackie@Lilolu

    If you didn’t have all those fears and doubt you may not have written this post to remind us how He notices, cares and loves us all very much. Thanks for the reminder, friend.

  • Ann Voskamp@Holy Experience

    May I whisper just this?
    He’s using your gift of writing.
    Thank you — you and God.
    Together, you are drawing hearts Home.
    To Rest in Him.
    Thank you….
    All’s grace,

  • denise

    this is me, word for word, me.
    i feel like a bird whose wings have been clipped. i want to fly.

  • Shaunie Friday

    Such beautiful honesty Mary–and words so many can relate to. I think we all have days like that, and even seasons like that. I completely agree with Marilyn–your ministry as a mother is more important than you can fathom, but it does make you feel invisible. I remember that stage well! My kids are both teenagers now and I’m in a new season, but when they were little, I felt just as invisible and on the shelf as you do, even while I wouldn’t have been anywhere else doing anything else! You’re doing the right thing though–keep writing! Giving expression to your creativity is so important! Don’t worry–you’re not being shut down, you’re just revving up–just wait until God puts you in gear and hits the gas!! Until then, enjoy that baby–you won’t know until later how fast this goes. In the words of Trace Adkins, “You’re gonna miss this!”

  • May

    Continue to believe and God will guide you to a place where your SPECIAL GIFT will shine. I too am struggling but grateful to have HIM in my life. blessings!

  • Elizabeth@LongtoLove

    I can totally relate. Thanks for being so honest and encouraging. Like Sharon above, there are so many times I get lost and discouraged looking for the wow factor and ignoring the God factor.
    As I continue to battle this, the best tactic I’ve found is meditating on scripture. I love the verses you put on the end and 2 Corinthians 10:5 from the first comment.
    One of my favorites is Psalm 138:8 “The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your love, O Lord, endures forever–do not abandon the work of your hands.”

  • Rachel

    I’m typing this comment through tears because this is exactly where I am. We moved to a new city this past summer and I know no one here. I’m lonely. I haven’t found a church because of the move, sickness, surgery, all kinds of things have come up. Like you, I know my talents and where I’m best suited to serve, but there are no opportunities for me to serve in the churches I’ve visited. I’m in a place where I’m floating along, hoping that I run aground in the place I belong.

  • Liz

    This is exactly where I am. Given a vision, years ago, but not able to see it fulfilled (yet).
    I just read this quote by Oswald Chambers, “God’s method always seems to be vision first, and then reality, but in between the vision and the reality there is often a deep valley of humiliation. How often has a faithful soul been plunged into a like darkness when after the vision comes the test. When God gives a vision and darkness follows, waiting on God will bring you into accordance with the vision He has given if you await His timing. Otherwise, you try to do away with the supernatural in God’s undertakings. Never try to help God fulfill His word.”
    I don’t fully understand why He gives us a vision and a passion and then makes us wait. But He has a purpose in that wait. It just hurts (and stinks, frankly!) when your wait goes from days, to months, to years. In my life I don’t see with my own eyes how it will come to fruition. But apparently it’s a call to faith. How long oh Lord?

  • Rosario

    I too wanted to be praised for my talent of singing. I wanted everyone to notice me and complement me. Did I forget who gave me the talent of singing? Did I forget who deserves the praise and the glory? Pride was keeping me blind. I thank God that he has found ways to bring me down from the pedestal. He has humbled me in many areas where I thought I was better than others. Now I truely serve Him and give him all the praise and honor in all I do.

  • Corie

    Thank you Mary for “The WOW Factor”. You hit the nail on the head for me. I am going through something similar where I am working. I graduated Magna Cum Laude with an Associates of Applied Science in Medical Assisting and passed my certification (am I being puffed up?)and can’t understand why all of the sudden I have become unconfident in my ability(bringing me out of my puffed up-ness?). I feel unappreciated at my new job and a total misfit. Some of it may be because I am older (51 and a first time college grad) and not comfortable with the off color remarks and attitude in my office. I never judge, I only smile and walk away. I find myself totally insecure in areas I previously was very secure in. I am asking myself if I should have taken this job in the first place, should I be looking elsewhere? Should I stay and see what will transpire? Is God at work in this situation? AAAAHHHHH!!! I pray and ask others to pray for those of us in such a “shaping” situation. I know God loves me and I am the “apple of His eye”. I hope to see, soon, what my Loving God is trying to teach me.

  • Aiming4Simple

    I have yet to overcome this feeling of invisibility. But recently I’ve been part of a study on the gospel of John. John the Baptist has encouraged me with his example. John knew exactly what his purpose was; he was always pointing people to Jesus.

  • Ashley

    Mary, I too cried when I read your post. This is exactly where I have been these last weeks. Feeling forgotten, not appreciated for the gifts I’ve known God has confirmed — even in my own church. Including the Scriptures you quoted, your thoughts have echoed my own. But it was so powerful for me, as I sat down to journal to God, your response from His heart. You are loved. Seen. Isn’t this what we want? To be seen. As one of your other commenters mentioned, pouring out love in so many subtle and unseen ways can sometimes cause us to feel forgotten as individuals. And yet, this may be when we are closest to the breath of Christ. God always sees. Hallelujiah. Thank you, sister, for your words of honesty, love and truth today. It resonated with my soul.

  • Stacey Lillich

    Ditto to it all. Can’t stop crying.

  • Jamee

    This needed this so much today! I shared it on my blog. So often we forget how much we are cherished by God as precious creations and He longs to remind us now special we are and how He does say “Wow” when He looks at us as His children and beloved creation. How awesome it is to be a part of such amazing love.

  • TerryBurke22

    Some time before, I really needed to buy a house for my organization but I didn’t have enough cash and could not purchase something. Thank God my brother proposed to try to get the loans from trustworthy bank. Thus, I acted that and used to be satisfied with my short term loan.

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