His six-year-old love language is quality time. Fittingly, as the third child, he was born into a life of companionship following, keeping up, learning fast. And when his brother was at a sleepover two doors down he was feeling a little lost. Blue eyes turning now to me, sparkling like it was his very first perfect idea, he invited me outside to read to him in the cool of the grass.
He didn't say, "Mom, come wrestle," or "Mom, let's carve sticks." Those are brother enterprises. He knows what I can and can't do; will and won't. My son knows what to ask and who to ask it of.
He invited me to use my strengths and to be present with him in my most adept way-- there lounging among the words.
And out of that he received intimacy and essence and abundance. Out of that I received all the same things. It's simply what felicitous invitation will do.
Entering my faith community with skills and gifts, admittedly languid and rusty, I found my title before my tribe: pastor's wife. Before I could introduce myself to anyone over coffee, chat about passions or families, articulate my faith, my faults, my loves or essentially be known, a task was commissioned to me to do. It was based on assumptions about the kind of person I might be.
It was a complete miss.
I respectfully declined. Defining myself and leaving room for my shape to merge with the community's was going to take some work.
My very first night in community I asked how I could help.
"We've got it covered," I was told.
The first invitation was unsuitable. Then, I was rebuffed. It was evident that no one else could guide me to a proper fit in that new place, among those new people already fit just right. I had to look for the holes, the hollows that I could fill. And, to me, it felt like relevant invitation was a chasm.
I took a first stab. I began a new thing and people came in the way that people come to your open house to see the stuff you live with. Of the fifteen that answered, three never showed and only four even remain in our community today. So much for the effectiveness of the open invitation.
I believe in the power of personal invitation; of relationships being the ground for growth, of connection that commences becoming.
I invite because I believe that God's kingdom should be bigger than the twenty percent. I invite to break open the possibility of faith, start the inner innovation, and commit to companionship. I invite because I know what it feels like to be invited. I invite in order to reap challenge and change.
Merging who I was with what was life-giving to others, I began issuing invitations that could fill deeper holes in smaller bites: book discussions, coffees, Bible studies, mentoring, days of silence. Looking around for the separated and still, I asked these new friends to join me in things they hadn't done before.
And these smaller movements have initiated a larger action. Those I invested in are now investing in others, building bridges across broken chasms, being courageous to act, finding the strength to be present in their most adept ways.
Invitation isn't just a way to be welcoming, it's a first step into a divine rabbit hole of intention and companionship. If I invite, I invest. And that has come with its own set of challenges.
(Continued in Part II)