I’ve long had a strange relationship with invitations.
When I was young unless people specifically invited me to join them to hang out or play I would keep to myself. Even with family. As I grew older, I considered second-hand invitations to gatherings as good as non-invitations. I was unlikely to show up somewhere uninvited or appreciate others crashing my events.
Perhaps this sounds anti-social, but I had merely made assumptions about others’ invitations (or lack thereof) based on my own approach to them. Depending on the event, I could easily spend weeks on a guest list. I always took time to think about exactly who I wanted to present. Every so often, I’d mentally go through who I knew, and who I wanted to prioritize among them. Intention and thought went behind each invitation extended and withheld. Even for smaller more casual get-togethers. People were neither after thoughts nor forgotten.
The more I think about it, the more I realize that God’s approach captures both styles: he invites broadly and yet also with an intention reaching as far back as creation. No one approaches him uninvited. No one shows up who he doesn’t absolutely, wholeheartedly, and after much thought want at his table. Regardless of how many come, he seeks intimacy with all, considering each an honored guest. No one catches him unprepared, no one is neglected.
A part of my fear as a child–and even now–of wading into situations without being asked stemmed from a fear of rejection. But invitations implied acceptance. They were a foolproof way of knowing your presence was desired. With an invitation, you didn’t risk a lukewarm reception or being treated like a disruption. On the contrary, taking initiative carried risk.
An Indefatigable “Come”
God is the ultimate inviter, extending his invitation to the highways and byways and to those on the oft-ignored or disdained margins.
Each movement we make towards God is in response to his initial “Come.” Each person who finds themselves seeking him is desired. And each “come” carries a call to intimacy: intimacy found, intimacy deepened, intimacy restored. Sometimes God’s “come” sounds like “do not fear” (Isa 41:10), other times it sounds more like “repent.” Still, other times it sounds like “do not worry about tomorrow” (Matt 6:34), “deny yourself” (Luke 9:23), or “lean not on your own understanding” (Prov 3:5). These–and more–are each his manifold invitations to experience him as the one true God: an inexhaustible source of strength, wisdom, gentleness, and patience far superior to what we can find in ourselves.
Because he is the ultimate initiator, we can come without fearing rejection. Because of how he invites us, we can know we haven’t been left off the list. He is constantly thinking about us, desiring our presence more than we, his. He doesn’t scramble to make space for us but walks us each to our own seat.
We were made for his table. We belong to it. We find the acceptance we long for there. What’s keeping you from your place by his side today?