Note: I realize this post is WAAAAY overdue. The Super Bowl is yesterday’s news, however this post really has nothing to do with the game, so feel free to read on!
So how I did I celebrate the greatest Super Bowl upset of all-time? I’m glad you asked. The unvarnished truth is, I spent over 3 hours late that night vacationing on a far distant island, reclining in a chair on the roof of a towering Anglican cathedral, reacquainting myself with a long-lost childhood friend….
Truly, truly I have said unto you! No, my marbles haven’t gone missing. I really did those things: albeit in a virtual world, closely reflecting our own. Yes, I’m talking about Second Life, the PC MMORPG that allows every participant to take full control of his or her own virtual life, to be whoever he or she wants to be. Personally, I never would have entered into this strange subculture if not for the providence of God. Believe it or not I am convinced God appointed for me to send an avatar into the digital beyond to continue a search that had brought me to a dead end in the real world.
See, my best friend from my youth had long since disappeared from my life. Oh, I knew where he lived and what he did for a living – via Google. (It helps that he has a unique name.) The trouble stemmed from his apparent reluctance to communicate with all of his old friends from school. I had noted a pattern develop over the last decade. We would email him and he would reply with a brief, yet courteous response. We would email him back and in return we would get the internet equivalent of radio silence. I could perhaps see how he would drift apart from his other buddies, but how could he do this to me, I was his best friend? I became resentful – for a time. He had graduated from a Baptist university, then turned around a few years later and attended an Episcopal seminary. He is now ordained into the ministry and has his own congregation. I reasoned in my vain imaginings that he had become far too holy to dare soil himself with my company. I never again tried to communicate with him, nor did he reach out to me. I somehow felt he was obligated to initiate contact – for reasons only an embittered soul could conjure.
Over the past three years the Holy Spirit has been working on my heart, revealing sin in every dark corner, withering it under the brightness of God’s holiness. In the midst of this process God began to show me how horrific of a friend I had been. I shuddered as I recounted countless moments where I failed to stick up for him, stand with him through trials, or even just to share in the things that were important to him. Upon reflection, I realized the Lord had his hand on him from a young age. He believed in Christ in his youth. For reasons beyond my understanding, he became a close friend to a rank pagan – me! I never once gave an ounce of consideration to his Christian beliefs. I can recall times when he tried to talk with me about such things. I usually responded with a blank stare of incomprehension. When he threw away his entire rock n’ roll tape/CD collection in college, I blistered him for it – calling it the single stupidest action I had ever witnessed. Not once did I consider the spiritual import of his action. All I saw was the supreme waste of an awesome collection of music – that I would have gladly taken off his hands. I didn’t really know him, and I believe that strained our relationship. He eventually moved on with his life and predictably, communications gradually decreased until we totally lost touch. I honestly can’t blame him.
A couple of years ago I began having recurring dreams. In my adulthood I don’t recall hardly any of them, so this was unusual. These visions were vivid and detailed. They depicted my friend and I engaged in long, deep conversations. I always awoke with a sense of sadness; my conscience’s way of reminding me that deep down I truly missed him. I knew that I did. I wanted to talk to him again but pride intervened. Every time I made up my mind to contact him, my pride popped up like that little imaginary devil from those old Looney Tunes cartoons who encourages you to do the exact opposite of what the little angel hovering over the other shoulder advises. It reminded me that I was the last one to reach out and he never responded. The ball sat squarely in his court and he had next serve. I piled up numerous justifications. If he really wanted to talk with me he already would have. If I contacted him now he would only reject me… on and on ad infinitum. I had plenty of excuses, yet the dreams kept coming. They became longer, more vivid. My emotional reactions become stronger. My desire to see him grew irresistible. In October of last year I had the most powerful and vivid dream yet. I woke up and prayed to my Heavenly Father, “Lord, I believe you are communicating to me through this dream to seek reconciliation with my friend. You have put in me a strong desire to do so. Lord, show me how I must do this.” I knew email communication would ultimately fail to achieve the desired end. I thought of calling him, but I didn’t think it would be the proper medium for the subject at hand – also, I simply do not enjoy talking on the phone very much. I decided I would travel a great distance and see him face to face. He lives in Colorado, I in Oklahoma. Not a great distance to travel, really, but gas isn’t cheap. I wavered in my resolve. In the end I decided I should wait until Spring, so I wouldn’t get caught in a snowstorm. The providence of God in the matter was now set in motion.
Three weeks ago I was passing the time browsing the internet. At one point I decided to visit a particular link on ‘My Bookmarks’. In my haste, I missed the link and clicked on the one right below it. It was a link to my friend’s blog. I had discovered it on one of my Google searches a couple of years ago. I never browsed there anymore because he had not posted to it for a close to year. Well, much to my surprise, he had several recent posts up. The articles focused on the viability of doing ministry in the PC game Second Life. I was surprised, to say the least. I read the articles with interest, and illumination fell on my usually dim brain. ‘What if I tracked him down in Second Life and talked with him virtual face-to-face?’ The more I pondered the possibilities the more attractive the idea became. I downloaded the game and went through the laborious, mandatory tutorials, gnashing my teeth in anticipation of the hunt.
Realization slowly dawned on me; Second Life is a massive world with multitudes of participants. I began to despair. How could I possibly hope to find my old friend in the midst of this gargantuan virtual landscape. I was sure he didn’t use his real life name, so his blog posts were my only clues. He mentioned church ministry so I looked for SL Episcopalian churches. My search turned up no hits. So I searched for Anglican churches and found one. I teleported to the location and discovered a beautiful island with a huge cathedral as its centerpiece. I poked around the grounds for awhile until I found someone meditating in the sanctuary. I inquired about my friend in an indirect manner, but the fellow did not know any of the regulars there. I began having second thoughts on my Second Life venture. ‘This is a waste of time!’ I complained to my avatar, who only stated into space indifferently. I walked outside the cathedral, preparing to exit when I saw a woman standing nearby. Her feet sparkled like she had diamonds on the soles of her shoes. She approached and we exchanged salutations. We began talking (or technically – chatting) and I told her I was in search of an old friend that I suspected hung out here. Eventually, I just threw his last name out, hoping she had perhaps heard of him. She said she did know him! She had actually went to seminary with him! My jaw sagged in astonishment. The second person I had spoken to in Second Life actually knew my friend personally. I marveled at God’s providence. I knew it wouldn’t be long before he brought us together. She didn’t know if he frequented Second Life, but she stayed in contact with him via email. She told me that the next time she emailed him she would tell him an old friend was looking for him. I thanked her for her kindness and logged out.
On Super Bowl Sunday I received a notice in my email that I had received an IM in Second Life. It was from the ‘Sole Diamond’ girl I had met there. She informed me that she had contacted my friend and that he didn’t mind giving out his Second Life name. She also gave me several SL hot spots he likes to hang out at. Yes! I had all the info I needed to finally have that long, necessary talk I have dreamed about for so long.
Around 10:30 that night, as the buzz from the Giant’s super upset began to subside, I decided to log in to Second Life and poke around for a bit before retiring to bed. Much to my surprise, I found ‘Sole Diamond hanging out there. I couldn’t immediately see her avatar, but we chatted. She typed something that sent chills down my spine. She said “Guess who’s here with me?” I swallowed hard. I knew the answer. I asked where they were and she replied that they were chilling on the roof. I decided now was as good time as any to test my flying skills – yes, people can fly in Second Life. A feature I wished God had implemented in real life – but, oh well.
I flew to the roof and found a couple of chairs occupied by ‘Sole Diamond’ and my friend. The whole scene plays surreally in my memory as I reflect on it now. He had on jeans and a t-shirt, casually sipping on a latte’ as he reclined comfortably. He didn’t know who I was, so I enjoyed holding all the cards. He slowly narrowed his list of potential candidates down to that guy from Oklahoma who works as a PC Tech at the U. It didn’t take him long to figure it out. I had a hunch he at least suspected it was me – he just had to confirm it.
We had an amazing encounter, a ‘holy moment’ as he called it. My search for a long lost friend had come to an end, yet I believe it is the beginning of a friendship renewed. We talked for 3 hours! We caught each other up on our lives and our families. We spoke of things that had went unspoken throughout our long friendship. There was much healing that night. Sins were forgiven and good times remembered. The conversation was everything I dreamed it would be. I confessed all that God had laid on my heart. Peace overwhelmed me. The joy of rediscovering a lost friendship filled me. I will never forget it for as long as I shall live. I thank my Lord for granting me such a blessed moment. His providential hand moved people and circumstances just so we could find one another. God is so loving, merciful and kind.