When I was a kid I used to think it would be great if I were able to become invisible. If I had such power I could sneak around unnoticed, get into things my parents told me to leave alone and simply enjoy the freedom of doing what I want when I want. As a child, invisibility intrigued me and the possibilities seemed endless. These days I’m not so sure.
Certainly no one has the power to become invisible. There are no cloaking devices such as the ones we see in science fiction movies and no super heroes with exceptional powers. We are stuck in this world of visibility, out there for all to see whether we like it or not. So we make the best of it. Some wear nice clothes, others follow current trends or perhaps even take on a look all their own. Through all of this the fact remains, at some time during life everyone wants to be noticed.
Yesterday as the sun finally broke through the clouds, I went for a walk along downtown streets. It had been cloudy and gray for some time now, so the invitation of warm sunshine was welcome news. The sidewalks were crowded with people taking their lunch outside, getting in some exercise or simply enjoying some fresh air in the park. It was great. People were talking to one another, trading hellos and greeting others with smiles as they passed by. That is until they came upon the invisible man.
Joey is a homeless man who frequents the park across the street from the church I pastor. He has few possessions, wears pretty much the same set of clothes most days and perches on the same park bench day in and day out. People walk past Joey never even turning their heads. Not that he really is invisible, folks just don’t want to pay too much attention, mostly out of fear I guess, fear that he may say something, asking for some spare change or some other “handout.” Every city has its Joey, actually, more of them than we can count.
Joey and I have been, well, acquaintances for a couple of years now. He really is a deep thinker and I enjoy conversation with him. As I approached I took my usual place next to him on the bench and made small talk. What’s up? Where you been? Nice weather we’re having. I used all the clichés. But as Joey responded, there was a difference in his tone. Somehow Joey seemed annoyed that so many people pass him by each day, paying him little attention. Precious few even bother to look his way. “I’m the invisible man,” he said to me, “I sit here every day and no one sees me at all.” Sadly, I couldn’t argue; that is until God tapped me on the shoulder.
“Hey Joe, you still got that Bible I gave you last year at Christmas?”
“Yep, read it every day.”
“Well, what’s Jesus have to say about you being invisible?”
Joey thought about it for a moment, then he brought up several stories where Jesus had compassion on the outcast from society; ten lepers, a woman bleeding for twelve years, and even a demoniac who lived in a graveyard. Jesus cured all of these people and restored their relationship with their respective communities. Then Joey asked, “Why doesn’t Jesus do the same for me?” “He already has.” I said, “You just don’t see it.”
Nine months ago, Joey came to the church and was baptized. We welcomed him into our family just as God welcomed him into the body of Christ. Since that time, he has become a fixture within our congregation. He won’t accept much in the way of assistance and though people have offered, Joey prefers to continue living as he does. But as I often remind him, God has restored his relationship in the community of the faithful. Yes, the worldly often pass him by without giving much notice, but God looks upon Joey, just as God looks upon all of his children with the compassion and love of Christ Jesus. We are all visible in the eyes of God. Even more, we are precious, cherished and loved.
There is a song that is played on contemporary Christian radio that says “[i]Open the eyes of my heart Lord.” Perhaps this is a prayer that Christians everywhere should pray before we take to the city streets and wander among the invisible. With the eyes of our hearts open to the needs of others, we become as Christ to them, having compassion and welcoming all into the community of faith. As we do this, the God whom we cannot see becomes visible in the hearts and minds of others, and the good news of God’s salvation through Christ becomes a present day reality for all whom God places within our midst.
No one wants to be truly invisible, it goes against human nature. We need love and human contact in order to live and to thrive. Open the eyes of my heart Lord. Help me to see the invisible so I can help them to see you and make your grace known to them.
[i] Open the eyes of My Heart Lord – Original lyrics by Mercy Me