These six words may sound simple, light-hearted and fun, but they can have significant influence and impact. These words create opportunity. They invite new life. They show love.
I so clearly remember moving to Dallas from the Midwest almost a decade ago. I was separated from everyone familiar to me (with the exception of my immediate family). It was scary, sad, lonely and oh, so humbling. I went from being well-known and loved in a community where I had grown up, made something of myself and given back, to being completely unknown, unrecognized and frankly, uninvited. To anything.
To be clear, nobody was mean. People were actually quite friendly. From afar. Neighbors traded friendly waves and hellos across the sidewalks. Moms exchanged pleasantries about weather, moving boxes or television shows while waiting for after-school pick-up. Friendly acquaintances would even make recommendations for the best stores, markets and places to visit.
But very few people extended an invitation to come over.
And I felt like an “outsider” because of it. I started to question why. Was it because I don’t look the part (whatever that means)? Is it because I’m from the North? Was I doing something wrong that was unknowingly against tradition? I had a thousand questions (and assumptions) swirling in my mind, and I self-examined over and over again, sure that I’d discover something I could fix. As it turns out, there was nothing wrong with me, nor with them.
People are just busy. And in our own busyness, it’s easy to assume everyone else is just as busy (especially after a move across the country). When calendars and commitments are overflowing, who can make room?
Most of us, actually. And, it could make a bigger difference than we realize.
I was too impatient, though, so rather than wait to receive enough invitations to build a community of new friendships, I sent a giant email blast begging others to join me for Bible study. Seriously, it was so pitiful and sad…but to my surprise and delight, people enthusiastically responded to the invitation! Excitement echoed as multiple women replied, “this is exactly what I’ve been needing, too.” Ten years later, these women are among my dearest friends.
One invitation changed everything for me.
From the moment I sent the email, it opened the door. New friends stepped in, even if they couldn’t commit to a weekly Bible study. Invitations for coffee, lunch and conversations followed, allowing me to get to know people. And, best of all, the weekly meeting of friends to deeply share life, pray, study God’s Word, laugh, cry (and anything else I needed) began in Dallas. All because of a mustard seed’s worth of courage to send an invitation. It’s what made Dallas “home” for me.
God calls us to community. He created us for relationship with Him and others. Alone in isolation, we aren’t equipped to maintain our health and well-being. We need each others’ encouragement in life (especially these days).
Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2)
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:24-25)
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. (1 Peter 4:8-10)
Community can be a life-changing result of an invitation, but asking another to join you does more than that: it fulfills our need to belong; to be known and loved…and wanted.
We have an incredible opportunity before us today. As a nation, we have racial unrest, and as difficult as it is in this season, I believe it’s going to be good for us in the long run. There is more leaning in, more seeking to understand and more healthy dialogue than I can recall in my lifetime.
I see perspectives changing and love percolating. Can you sense it? It’s building, and we can help. For real. We CAN do something that makes a difference…
Invite someone over. Someone NOT like you.
Then, ask questions. Listen to perspectives that are completely different than your own. Understand where others have come from, what they’ve been through, how they’ve struggled. Our experiences matter, because they shape who we are, how we see the world and how we engage with it. Perhaps we might recognize that, generally speaking, it’s been easier for those of us with lighter colored skin. I don’t say that to cause shame or defensiveness. There’s no place for that in Kingdom work. I say it only so we can move with compassion and try to make it better moving forward.
I think back to a decade ago when I moved to Dallas; how I felt misplaced and alone. I was able to move past that fairly quickly. I wonder how many minorities feel this way most of the time…throughout their whole lives? It wrenches my gut. It doesn’t feel good, but I can do something, and so can you.
We’re taught in 1 Peter 3:8, “Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.” We can extend invitations for these exact purposes. We can demonstrate the love of Christ. We can listen and process together.
Let’s not wait! There’s an open seat near you. Who should sit there?
Father God, thank you that You provide the perfect example of hospitality. You want us all to come to Your house. You love each and every one of us, unconditionally and without preference. Lord, show us how to be more like You. Give us courage to do things we’ve never done and the capacity to love like we never have. With Your help, we can move mountains. Help us, Lord. Amen.