In the past two weeks we've hosted four meals. Preparing for intimacy and essence and abundance, we move through the arrangements with our guests in mind: eat inside or out, bread or no, vegetarian or meat, adult's tastes or children's too. While I prepare, I cook and think and pray over the time to share what we have with others. To nourish and fill and be filled. Invitation is hospitality: that reverence and awe we give to the guest who has arrived at our request.
Come, we say. We have something for you. It's us.
We're free to give it.
After years of invitations I have to come to terms with my humanity. I have to balance the invitations I give to others with the invitations I give to my children, my husband, my closer friends. I have invitations to send out to silence and play and creativity and God. I can't do everything, only something. I can't invite everyone, only some. It's the same for all of us. But somehow that title I took on seems to say it should be everything, everyone. Even the tribe says it, thinks it.
Coffee with two friends brought up something hard: when I invite it polarizes. This is so far from my heart. In these years, when I saw that others were connected I rejoiced, but now I spin a bit when I consider that maybe they didn't find closeness and open up their hearts safe and changed in relationship. Has the power of invitation been left undiscovered for them? When we don't give invitation we don't move anyone closer.
Another hit: when I finally invite they feel like they've arrived. Arrived at what? A place to see my struggles and failures? All the swings and misses? I don't do anything to save or raise them. I'm walking in faith too and they don't even know that I rely on them to keep my feet on the ground with words of affirmation and correction and to show me the activity of God because I fail to see it so many days on end. Would anyone really be wishing to enter that place?
Invitation doesn't ignite from coercion, but freedom. When you demand it of me, I'm no longer free to give it.
Still, I know that others invite one another. I asked, "How is what I do different from her small book group, or his accountability circle?" The answer came back fixed, "You're the pastor's wife. You can't separate yourself from the whole of the church." And my heart, shattered in pieces, scrambled to assemble into a new shape for the sake of these friends.
From the beginning, a few took exception to my penchant for invitation: labeled as being "exclusive," or not a ministry of the church. I wanted to differ, but I didn't push back -- eyes on the Father nudging me and not on the critics. If I didn't see others inviting I pressed on to bring in the friend on the fringes, emerging mentor, maturing disciple, broken soul.
And when I heard of invitations happening in new and different circles, I encouraged them, not forcing myself into the center or even to the edges. I became that friend nodding and winking from afar waving them forward into their own abundance. So acutely aware that abundance isn't found in me.
The Side B of Invitation is titled Challenge. When we invite, we design an outcome: "I want you to experience this with me." "I see you in a fuller way." This requires that we ask others to lean in and trust. Invitation never says, "Check it out for a while," or "Come, be ambivalent." or "I'll only share a little bit of what I have." Invitation takes, and to it you bring, the whole of you, the life and the dust equally left fragile in its wake.
Invitation has limits only because I do. And surely it gets offered to me as infrequently as it does to others. For this reason, it's odd that I even wondered why the invitations that would draw out my most adept gifts, stopped.
(Continued in Part III)