We Are Invited
I’m no party animal. In fact, for my fiftieth birthday I left the country just to ensure nobody threw me a party! Yet a story Jesus told about a bloke who hosted a banquet has captured my attention. In the story a rich and generous Host, who represents God, sends out invitations to a party.
Without text messages or Facebook to announce all was ready the Host relied on a servant to find all invited guests and inform them preparations were complete. However, every single person on the guest list now rejected their invitation. Each was too wrapped up in the trappings of their outwardly successful lives – too busy with property, relationships or possessions to come; too busy to experience the lavish welcome being offered by the Host. The Host was bitterly disappointed. With his heart, and his feast ready for sharing the servant was immediately sent out again with instructions to search far and wide for people crippled by Life. Many accepted, yet still there was room. The servant was sent out once again to look even further afield. This time the instruction was to search along country roads and look behind hedges for anyone who would come.
It’s all about the welcome
Having studied this story many times I now believe the thing about this party is not the food, it’s the welcome. The guy throwing the party oozed tender acceptance. He longed to lavish love and welcome on his guests. I’m reminded of a well-known photo of Princess Diana, arms flung wide open greeting her two young sons. Or a parent embracing their new baby with joy and delight. It’s like the tightest of hugs I give my young adult son each time we catch up. It’s being held, aware you are known fully and fully accepted. It’s everything we need when Life breaks us. Being welcomed to this party is like being welcomed home.
A few years ago I reflected further on this story and understood it held a deeper challenge for me. I realised that I had yet to accept the Host’s invitation for myself. In fact, I was hiding behind a hedge, trying to cover up a childhood which had left me emotionally crippled and fragile. Sure, I knew all about God’s generous welcome but it had not yet healed me. I understood the banquet was available but had not yet been satisfied by it.
Striving to be good enough
Subconsciously I was striving to be good enough for God. Yet how on earth do we measure ‘enough’? How do we know when we have prayed enough, served enough or given enough to earn our place at the table? It was after I messed up my life that I understood this invitation fully. When I was stripped me of everything – the protective shell I had put up, the masks, the achievements that made me appear worthy – when all of that was gone all I had left was vulnerability.
It is a huge risk to accept the invitation; to risk being seen fully, to risk the Host knowing we are less than we want to be. The intimacy of the Host’s welcome is difficult to accept when we cannot even accept ourselves. Yet we are invited to come with nothing but our messy and broken, raw and real selves.
The Host longs to wrap us in acceptance and hold us in healing embrace close to his heartbeat. Our vulnerability is perfectly matched with lavish love. As the Host welcomes us home the hunger of our hearts is truly satisfied. This is the point of the story. And it took me 30 years to work that out!