I was getting ready for my first official week on the job at FRC. I wasn’t scheduled to lead worship the Sunday prior to beginning my office hours, so I accepted an invitation to accompany a friend on a road trip. I figured it would be my last free weekend in a long time, and I was ready to enjoy one last getaway without expectations or restrictions.
But then I remembered an invitation still in its envelope on the kitchen table where I had last left it. My friend Brooke had called me a few weeks prior and practically begged for my address. “We’re planning a surprise 50th birthday party for Mom and we want you to be there. What’s your address so I can send you an invitation?” My first reaction was that I wanted to be there. Brooke’s mother is not just Brooke’s mother; she is like my own mother in many ways. I consider Dori to be one of my closest friends, and I couldn’t imagine missing out on her birthday party. I was excited to celebrate with her; after all, she had done so much for me in my life, and it was time for me to give back.
It was then that I realized I had a choice to make; I could go on my weekend getaway or stay home so I could attend the party on Saturday night. The decision should have been easy, but I wanted to do both. My heart told me that I couldn’t miss Dori’s party, but my head told me that I deserved this mini vacation and I should go away for the weekend. I called my friend Cindy and told her about my dilemma. I was surprised and relieved to hear that her plans for our road trip weren’t as elaborate as I had first thought them to be. She wanted to leave town on Friday night and return home late Saturday evening if possible. I asked her if we could make a point to be back in town by 6:00 pm. because I had a birthday party to attend. She agreed and plans were made for our weekend away.
In looking back at that weekend, I wonder now why that decision was so difficult for me. Dori was and still is a dear friend, and I can’t believe I even contemplated missing her party. I would have regretted not celebrating with her for a long time, and I’m so glad I decided to make a point to attend the party. I was blessed to share in this special day with a special friend.
The only reason I am writing about that weekend almost two years ago is that I was reminded of this thing called “the invitation” recently. In the past few weeks, Pastor Tim has been preaching about having a heart for the lost during our Sunday morning services. His messages have been aptly timed in my personal life and it has been difficult to sit through his preaching without tearing up. I have found that when it comes to having a heart for the lost, I am far from this reality. I care about people, yes, but when push comes to shove, I am often not the one to reach out to the hurting and broken. Why this is true for me hasn’t come into focus yet. I go through each day now wondering why some of my relationships are so taxing that I just want to throw in the towel. I wonder why I don’t have the energy to follow through and to invest in the lives of those who need His love and mercy. I wonder why I’m not more compassionate, understanding, merciful, etc. I wonder why my spiritual heart has more or less flat-lined. I ask: “What’s wrong with me, God? Why don’t I feel something for the lost?”
So I have started on a soul-searching journey— reading Scripture and other literature on having a heart for others, praying for particular names of people I am in contact with, and considering practical ways in which I can reach out. I have found it certainly isn’t easy. When my day is busy and hectic, it isn’t my first priority to send a quick text or email just to see how someone is doing. It isn’t my first inclination to stop someone in the hall and ask how I can be praying for them. When it comes to the “difficult” people in my life, it isn’t at the top of my list to invite him or her out to lunch for a nice chat. I tell myself I’m too busy, too tired, that I don’t have to do it because someone else will fill in that gap. I know it isn’t right, but I tell myself that God will understand.
Sure he’ll understand; He knows my weaknesses and how I struggle in this area. But it doesn’t mean that He’s going to let me off the hook. I have found in the past few weeks that my heart is going through a great deal of change. I have started to really think about others and how God must see them through His eyes. I have wondered how I could make a better effort to reach out, not only to those who are lost but those who need a little extra TLC. It has been a stretch and sometimes the activity level in those rarely-used parts of my heart has created some discomfort. But its a good kind of discomfort— a way for God to enter into my fragile being and impart a bit of His heart to mine.
Every morning, God sends each one of us an invitation; it isn’t a pretty card sent to us through the mail inviting us to a party. No, this is an invitation to serve and reach out to others. I think of the man who invited several people to a wedding feast in Luke 14. Each of the guests at that banquet sent their regrets and made excuses for why they couldn’t attend. That’s when the owner of the house decided he was still going to throw a party, except he wasn’t going to let the original guests inside. Instead, he called for his servants to invite the poor, disabled, and other outcasts to come to his banquet.
I think of the heart of that master. He was wiling to open the doors of his home to the lowest of society. People probably thought he was crazy, but he did it anyway. What if we did a similar thing every morning when we set out on our daily schedule? No, we’re probably not going to throw a party and open the doors to let everyone in. But it might be as simple as giving a kind word to a less-than-lovable co-worker or offering to pay for the person behind you in the drive-thru. Sometimes, it doesn’t take a huge effort to minister to those around us and share the love of Jesus. If only we would take hold of the invitation to truly reach out. Jesus is waiting for us to RSVP to the grandest party of all! What will our response be? I pray for you and me that it is “YES, I’ll come!”