The Art of Invitation
It’s an art.
Yet, in our busy lives, we miss it, or perhaps we purposefully choose to ignore it.
God demonstrated it in his desire to be in relationship with us–calling out “Where are you?” (Gen. 3:9) to Adam and Eve that they might walk with him in the cool of the Garden. And Jesus beckoned, “Come, all you who are weary …” (Matt. 11:28), as well as, “Let the little children come to me …” (Matt. 19:14). Still, too often we turn a blind eye to its beauty and importance.
What is it?
And why is it difficult? Is it fear? An inconvenience? Is it too expensive or a drain on our emotions?
Likely it’s all of these at one time or another, and this Covid-season hasn’t helped. We keep our distance, don’t lean in, or, heaven forbid, hug. And for good reason. But how will we as a society emerge from our corporate isolation? More wary of others? Less trusting? More withdrawn? Less social?
God created us to be in relationship with him, as well as with those around us. Jesus called the Twelve to follow him, to do life intimately with him, be with him in his darkest moments–yes, even unto death.
Modeled by our heavenly Father, by our Savior, invitation must be important, as it’s the catalyst for relationship. For friendship.
Sadly, it’s a lost art.
In her lovely and insightful book Holy in the Moment, Ginger Harrington says these powerful words–
… isn’t invitation a ministry? God moves in powerful ways through the encouragement of friends … The greatest gift we give to others is the invitation to simply be themselves, to be real, imperfect, quirky, and unique.
I was recently invited to have breakfast with a dear friend, a rare treat these days. As we visited, we talked with our mouths full, practically stumbling over one another’s words–not in a rude way, but, rather, more in an excited, giggly-girl sort of manner. (After all, we both had a lot to say!) In her haste, some pancake flew from my friend’s mouth, and we laughed. It was enduring and real. Such is the mark of true friendship.
But it all began with an invitation.
And take our 11-year old daughter Allie. Covid has made growing a garden of friendship more challenging, calling parents to be more purposeful in planning time for their children to fellowship with peers. Many schools aren’t entirely in-person yet, and most youth groups are still meeting virtually.
Meet Allie’s friend Olivia. She and her parents have mastered the art of invitation. They prayerfully and compassionately reach out to children, Allie included, in our community–inviting them to go skating, to go swimming, to hang out and play games. And in this day in age, such is no small matter.
Again, it all begins with an invitation.
But I don’t have that gift.
Not so fast. Everyone made in God’s image is meant to be like him, and he’s been inviting from the beginning of time. In fact, he’s still inviting–calling out for all to join his family through his Son Jesus.
Here are several simple steps to consider:
Be willing. Perhaps spontaneity isn’t your thing. Then plan it. Save for it. Prepare for it. Inviting someone doesn’t mean the plans have to be immediate. The activity doesn’t have to be expensive. It doesn’t’ mean one has to clean every square inch of her house. Just set a date–even weeks in advance–and welcome someone in to your life, with sincerity, to experience authenticity, to feel cared for and loved. Oh, and be willing, too, to step out of your comfort zone. Perhaps get to know someone with whom you might not otherwise cross paths.
Be reliable. If you’ve said, “I’d really love to get together,” but then don’t follow up–like ever, not even to touch base and say, “It hasn’t happened yet, but I haven’t forgotten”–then others might write you off as insincere. Worse, they might think themselves too unworthy for you to want to spend time with. Neither is good, and one is just sad, plain and simple. It’s worth repeating–Be reliable.
Be prayerful. Not everyone is meant to be the best of friends. Pray about who it is God wants you to spend your time, energy, and resources on. And this is true for one’s children as well. Pray with and for them, for their friendships. Then pursue those to whom God points you, with purpose and intentionality. You just might be surprised by who it is God has waiting to bless your life in return!
But an invitation to do what?
It can be simple. Go on a picnic. Take a walk. Share a meal. Or visit via Zoom.
I was recently invited to spend some time with a dear cousin who lives out of state. Though Covid has kept us apart, we still have computers, not to mention those cute little contraptions that, for all the distraction they cause, connect people–literally, face-to-face. (It’s called FaceTime).
For nearly an hour, we visited, coffee in hand, in pajamas. It wasn’t exactly like being together, but it sure was close.
And it all began with an invitation.
So, who will you invite? Specifically, right now, to whom might the Lord be calling you to offer an invitation–to say, “Let’s visit”?
Be willing. Be reliable. Be prayerful.
I bet they’re waiting. What’s holding you back?
Dear Jesus, just as you’ve invited us to come, we, too, are called to invite. But who? When? And what will we do? Though these questions may remain, we know you’ll answer and guide us in the art of invitation. After all, friendship matters, and you’ve promised–Yes, even the introvert!–I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Phil. 4:13). Amen.