Home > Christianity, Church, Spiritual formation > Invisible Friends Series, Part 3

Invisible Friends Series, Part 3

Here is Part 3, the final part, of the Invisible Friend Series, a metaphor for spiritual formation. Find Parts 1 and 2 in previous posts. Thoughts?

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It grew unexpectedly, and strongly, almost overnight,  or so it seemed. It crept into my very soul, washed over my intentions, and forced me to redefine everything. Its name was apathy, and it became a part of us.

All the work I had lately put into appearing normal, pretending to be ok, to be right, to be spiritual festered in me until I eventually found myself not caring at all.

My schoolwork became something that if I did it at all, I merely did it to get a good grade, and nothing more.

I still attended church and youth group, but it had become like brushing my teeth or taking a shower – something I knew I should do, and even did without much effort or thought, but nothing that really meant anything to me, nothing that changed me for longer than a few hours.

Deep down it felt like I had a desire to change, to grow, but there was so much stuff in the way of that deep desire that it seemed impossible to ever become someone who cared. I tried and tried to change, and these changes would last for a few days, a week or sometimes even longer, but it would never stick.

And my invisible friend, still with me as he had been since the very first day, began to influence me in the most spontaneous ways. He encouraged me to lash out at small things – like when the soup my mom prepared for dinner was too hot, and I burnt my tongue on the first bite.

“What are you trying to do to me, Mom?!?” I yelled at her, my voice dripping with anger. My mom’s response was all it could be – laughter at how I had responded, which only made me angrier. I stormed out of the kitchen fuming – over hot soup.

And there were other times like this, where impatience or jealousy overwhelmed me, and I lashed out at someone, or even at myself, and then wondered who I was becoming or what had just happened.

All of this seemed to grow out of the thoughts, feelings, and encouragement of my invisible friend. He moved me in strange, uncontrollable, and often surprising ways.

We were so intricately intertwined that we were one, and yet it felt like he had a depth to him, a hidden depth, that if I could just understand, if I could just see it more clearly, I would understand myself, my actions, my thoughts so much more deeply.

It was here in this place of feeling lost, apathetic, unable to control my emotions, unable to choose the good for very long, that I was found by someone else who also had an invisible friend, who had been given what she called a gift – though I had ceased long ago viewing my invisible friend as a gift.

Her eyes connected with mine in way that said, “I know, I understand what you are going through,” and I instantly felt welcomed in her presence. She was older, perhaps a few years younger than my mom was, and radiated calmness, acceptance, and joy. I felt known by her in a way I had not experienced before.

I felt less invisible.

She invited me to her home the following Thursday where a group of people met each week, a group of people who all had invisible friends. She encouraged me to join them, though she did not demand it.

And so I went, and it was here that I first encountered space, room, a place to come face to face with my invisible friend in a way that I had never done before.

It was here, in this group, that I learned more about the one who had given me my invisible friend that fateful day.  Each person had their own unique story of encountering the Giver of their invisible friend – mine from a Carnie, but others had received theirs from a baker, a teacher, a nurse, a businessperson, an artist.

Over time, as I developed relationships with this group, as we shared our stories, I began to see my invisible friend more clearly, more truly, for all that he was, all that I had made him to be. And as he became more and more clear to me, a funny thing happened – I began to see the invisible friends of others.

Each invisible friend was unique, and told me so much about the real person with whom they lived. For instance, one of the members of the group seemed, by all appearances, hard and uninviting. He went by the name of Ty, and before I ever saw his invisible friend, I had decided that Ty was too different from me to ever be a true friend. In fact, I even wondered what he was doing coming to these gatherings – he just seemed so different.

But I was so wrong! Once Ty’s invisible friend became more visible to me, I saw that  deep down he wrestled with the same issues I did – wanting to be accepted, searching for true identity, and an inability to control and express emotions well.

This, I realized, is what the Giver had always intended for me, for us – that we would create the space necessary for the Giver of invisible friends to make visible what we so often could not see. In doing so, we would work with the Giver to cultivate, to grow our invisible friends into who the Giver intended them to be – and become ourselves who the Giver created us to be.

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  1. June 16, 2011 at 7:16 AM

    Jamie, Sorry to say, “I’m lost.” Is this invisible friend good or evil. What is it. I think, depending on that understanding, I might then catch the spiritual formation of this parable.

    • June 16, 2011 at 8:40 AM

      Wayne,

      Thanks for your question. The invisible friend is a metaphor for the heart – which can be good or evil, depending on how we nurture it/tend to it. Essentially, spiritual formation is a matter of the heart. Often times we think of formation as fixing the outcomes, when in reality all of those fixes are temporary if the interior is not made right. So the story is meant to convey the various ways we feed/tend to our heart, and how essential caring for it is to spiritual formation.

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