I was casually walking down the aisle of a bookstore in Asia when a picture leapt off the cover of a book. It was my own children!
I instantly understood: I had misunderstood the invitation. I thought we had been invited to help the small local photo studio make a brochure. Then, days later, someone else saw that same picture in a huge frame on the wall of a maternity hospital. I clearly had not heard the invitation correctly.
Or, the time I heard, “We would like to invite your father to speak to a small group of doctors about medicine.” What the invitation MEANT was, “We’d like to have your father give a televised speech to an auditorium of 500 doctors, and then your mother will give a speech to all of the nurses.”
My ear for understanding cross-cultural invitations obviously did not come naturally. This was a skill that had to be developed over the course of many years and countless invitations.
What I love about the Asian culture where I lived, however, is that invitations are frequent and generous, and often filled with unexpected surprises. Somewhere along the way, we had to learn to laugh at the unexpected, rather than flip out that the invitation had turned out so drastically different than our expectations.
Like the time that the beggar on the street invited our family to go to dinner. Our mutual friendship had been growing for months. The food was crazy — and I mean crazy – like deep-fried baby chicks. But, in the course of an evening chocked full of the unexpected, we came crashing into a huge unexpected — and that was a man whose heart was ready to hear the Gospel.
I love cross-cultural invitations with all of their layers of meaning and expectations and hopes and plans.
I love the unlikely surprises that seem to come with every invitation.
Lately God has been teaching me a lot about His invitations. One of my mentors often asks me, “What is God inviting you to? Who is He inviting you to become?”
And slowly, slowly His reality is beginning to sink into my thick head, much like the multitude of invitations I had to get wrong before I began to understand.
God is inviting me to a rich, full life — a life that is so far beyond my small expectations. And it’s often full of crazy surprises.
He is inviting me to a true, honest, real relationship with Him. Just recently I clearly heard the Lord whisper to my soul: “Renee, I love all of you. Come to me with it all. Not just your bright, shiny moments. Tell me everything that worries you, frustrates you, delights you.”
Our Gentle Shepherd doesn’t force us to intimacy. He invites us to the best love relationship there is. He is perfect community in Himself — and he invites us to be part of that! “As the Father loves the Son, so I love you…”
A dear friend once shared a dream that she had about the sweet invitation of the Lord. She heard deep belly-laughing coming from down a hallway. She followed the sound of the laughter to a room, and when she pushed open the door, she saw the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit around a table, laughing so hard they were crying. She immediately began to back out of the room, feeling like she was intruding on a private moment. Jesus whipped around in his chair and with a huge smile, He said, “Where are you going? We want you in here!”
He gave me such a dream one time, too.
I hesitate to share this because it was an intimate moment, but I want to share it because it so clearly shows the tender heart of our Lord in his invitation to us.
In the dream, I saw that I was standing in heaven — and I was watching David, Moses, and Peter talk smack to each other. (Really! They were! It was really funny). David was saying, “Watch this!” and he lassoed a bunch of sheep with one try. Peter shook his head and said, “No way, brother. Watch this!” and he threw a fishing net into the water and pulled in loads of fish. Before Moses had a chance to lift up his staff, I could hear Jesus laughing and said, “C’mon, you guys. It’s time to eat.” And I found myself sitting at a table that went as far as I could see — thousands and thousands of people were finding seats. It was THE feast! Food piled high. I wasn’t sure where to sit — I felt unsure of where I belonged. I mean, really? I didn’t deserve a close seat to Jesus, for sure, but really — by C.S. Lewis?! I pulled out a chair, wondering where Jesus was, and then suddenly realized He was right next to me. And He turned to me and smiled a smile that made warmth spread to the bottom of my toes. And He looked into my eyes, and said, “Renee. I am so glad you are here.”
I will never forget that dream for the rest of my life. And I hope that it encourages your soul today. He is the God who invites you to Himself…and to a love that is richer than we could ever imagine.
Delight today in the surprise that is waiting for you on the other side of this precious invitation.
(And won’t it be hilarious if we find out that David and Peter and Moses really do tease each other like that?!).
Rest in His invitation, dear ones. He is so, so glad you are there — right next to Him at the feast.
When have you known your value to Jesus? What is he inviting you to remember right now in the midst of all you have going on?