“Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen,” (1 Timothy 1:17, emphasis mine).
I was surprised to realize this morning that I’ve never written about invisibility—not God’s invisibility, mine. I remember seeing The Invisible Man when I was a kid. And all the cartoon characters had to do was put on vanishing cream and *poof* they were invisible. So as a kid, I was fascinated with the idea of invisibility. I even had a strange belief (for a little while anyway) that if I couldn’t (or didn’t) see the other person, they couldn’t see me. Obviously, I gave that up the first time that someone came up behind me and tapped me on the shoulder. But invisibility was an idea that continued to fascinate me.
When I was about 35 years old, we lived in Durham, North Carolina, our house was in a good neighborhood that was just a few blocks away from the projects, with a major street that served as a boundary between the 2 neighborhoods. Halloween saw lots of kids from the projects coming into our neighborhood to trick-or-treat, but there was never any trouble. However, the businesses just a few blocks past our neighborhood were robbed constantly. One morning I woke up very early, and just couldn’t get back to sleep. So I went for a walk. When I got to the road leading to the projects, I turned left—away from the projects and toward the businesses.
About a block away I saw 2 young men walking toward the projects—toward me, but on the other side of the street. They looked like they were out looking for trouble, and I don’t say that just because they were black. You can tell when someone’s up to no good, and although I don’t remember what they said as I got closer, I could hear that they were talking about robbery. I quickly prayed, “Lord, if these 2 are looking to hurt me, please make me invisible,” and I continued walking.
When I got close to them, they suddenly stopped talking, stopped walking, and one of them looked in my direction. I stopped walking, too. Something said, “Be cool, say hi to them like nothing’s wrong.” But I fought that urge and remained silent. It wasn’t until later that I realized what had happened. The devil hadn’t heard my prayer, prayed silently inside my mind. But he could see the fruit of that prayer, so he had tried to get me to come out from God’s protection.
It was clear that they had heard my footsteps on the gravely road. His eyes scanned right where I was, but he obviously did not see me. We were near enough to street lights that he should have easily been able to see me, but he didn’t. Soon they started walking again, and so did I. A couple of times I saw the guy turn and look back, but he never saw me.
It wasn’t until months later that I realized that God had taken that prayer for invisibility, prayed when I was about 35, and had applied it at other times when I was in danger of someone wanting to hurt or kill me. He answered that prayer retroactively—how cool is that? And that’s easy for God, since He exists outside of the confines of our 4 dimensions (3 spatial plus time). (For those who like science, and especially the science of God, here’s a great sermon by Chuck Missler, explaining the extra-dimensionality of God: An Extraterrestrial Message.)
The first time that God made me invisible was when I was 9 years old. This is the stupidest thing I ever did, and it’s embarrassing to admit that I was ever this stupid, even as a child. I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, in the sleepy little town of Burlingame. During that time (the mid- to late-60’s) the Hells Angels were active and headquartered in northern California not far from Burlingame. But they weren’t the do-good bike club that they are now. At that time they really lived up to the name. They were bloodthirsty men who killed for sport. They would surround a car on a remote highway, force it off the road and kill the driver—often not even bothering to take his money.
Behind my elementary school there was a hill with lots of trails and one dirt road big enough for a car. One summer day I was on the dirt road, intending to explore the trails—one of my favorite activities as a kid. I was at the bend in the road when I heard a motorcycle coming up the road behind me. I hid in a bush just past the bend and waited. When the motorcycle rounded the bend, I jumped out of the bush and yelled, “Boo!” The driver was so startled that he almost wrecked his bike, and going fast enough that he went on another 50 yards or so, fishtailing and cursing loudly. I saw the Hells Angels jacket, and I knew that if he got his hands on me, he would kill me.
I ran to the other side of the road and climbed a tree. But I didn’t climb a big tree. This tree was no bigger around than your arm, with nowhere near enough greenery to hide me. So there I was in a small tree, wearing a pink and yellow outfit. I hung on tightly, hoping that the tree wasn’t shaking—I’m sure that I must have looked like a giant pink and yellow gooney bird. He came back down the road, still cursing and muttering threats. He looked into the bush that I had jumped out of, then came over to the side of the road where I was up the tree. I squeezed my eyes shut, sure that if I continued to look at him, he would feel my eyes on him and look up.
Before long, I heard him go back to his bike, turn the motor on, and continue up the road, still cursing. I got down out of the tree, ran down the road, and all the way home. When I got home, I locked myself in my room until the terror had finished running through my system. The question in my mind that ran over and over and over was: “How did he not see me?” It was inexplicable. But the answer is that God had made me invisible. In fact, it really is the only answer that makes sense.
Another time, I was in my late twenties, and we lived in Marietta, Georgia at the time. Again I had woken up very early and couldn’t sleep. So I had gone out for a walk. We lived in a quiet neighborhood at the edge of town. I saw a van drive past me and the driver slammed on his brakes. He turned the van around, and I knew that he was coming to get me. So I ran to a tree and stood very still by it. I was still in plain sight because it was a pine tree with no low branches. The van drove past me very slowly, then turned around and drove past me again. The driver turned around to make another pass and I ran to some juniper bushes nearby and hid. The van turned at the end of the block and stopped. It was between me and the house. It sat there for a long time, just waiting. I saw cigarettes flicked from both front windows, and knew that I was outnumbered. My leg muscles began to cramp from the cool morning air, and to be honest, I had gotten bored. So I slipped out of my hiding place and walked in the opposite direction, intending just to continue my walk. I walked to my son’s school a few blocks away, and that’s when the van drove up to the school. Again I stood still, this time among a small grove of pine trees. I wasn’t by a tree, but I stood still, hoping that I looked more like a tree than a human. It was a pretty ridiculous hope, because pine trees don’t usually have arms and long hair. But they didn’t see me because God had made me invisible.
God had answered my prayer for invisibility retroactively as well as in the present. How is this possible? Nothing is impossible for God. The Bible says that God knows the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10). God’s foreknowledge (really all-knowledge, omniscience) makes answering prayer retroactively not only possible, but even likely by a loving God who intends to protect a stupid little girl up a tree about to be killed by an angry Hells Angel. The Bible also says, “I will answer them before they even call to Me,” (Isaiah 65:24, NLT).
By far, the most amazing retroactively answered prayer is the one that every believer has prayed: the prayer of salvation. Jesus died for our sins before we were even born!
God doesn’t make me invisible when I’m in no physical danger. But He is faithful to answer prayers prayed in faith—retroactively, too! God is good!