I read something the other day that has stuck with me. The basic gist of it is, “It is easy to complicate things, but requires work to make things simple” (Author unknown). I don’t know about you, but living in the simple also evokes that feeling of a hundred pound weight falling off of my shoulders. It is so very hard to get there sometimes, but when we do, we see there’s victory in it, yet I can still be the Queen of Complicated.
For several years now, I have sought to begin a new year in the simple, press the restart button, or even the start button on life, so I’ve prayed and asked God to help me be intentional to focus on one word, or one statement. Over time I’ve seen God take those things and put a neon sign around them in my mind and heart, and oftentimes as much as being knocked over the head with them! They have given me purpose, offered me perspective, and reminded me of the true simplicity of the Gospel. However, anything worthwhile doesn’t generally come without complication.
As I’ve stepped into 2017, time and time again I’ve sensed the Holy Spirit reminding me of the reason I ever embraced a life of full-time ministry in the first place. Each day I sit down at my desk in my office at our church and I read these words taped to my desktop written by author Renee Swope, “Jesus was never in a rush. He never saw people’s interruptions as interruptions. He saw them as invitations.” The first time I read those words they shook me, and at the same time screamed, “THIS is what is simple. THIS is the Gospel.” Now that some time has passed, I’ve allowed those words to become complicated. There will be times that criticism creeps in as we serve people. Oftentimes we choose to live in a land of assumptions that we are not liked, loved or appreciated…or even that we are not making a difference. Trust will be broken and walls constructed to protect us from hurt. Situations arise that make things seem impossible to overcome, much less serve to influence others. Many days we will throw our hands in the air, wondering why this calling to spread the Gospel seems so very difficult. Many days all of those things may make us want to quit entirely. So, when I sensed God reminding me, and giving me a fresh word at the same time, to live a life that INVITES, it just didn’t seem as simple as I was hoping.
So, how do I do this when it’s so easy to over-think this every day, or when roadblocks pop up? Friend, when we don’t have the answers or feel we hit a wall at every turn, we have His Word. If I am not running to it in times of uncertainty, in times of stretching, or searching…or even in the constants of life, I am not learning to live a life of invitation at all. Scripture shows us so many simple ways that Jesus, along with His followers, lived a life that invited others in, void of prejudice about circumstances or personalities. We see that he dined with Pharisees in Luke 7:36…Now one of the Pharisees was requesting Him to dine with him, and He entered the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. In 1 Kings 13:7 we’re reminded of the gift of rest we can offer others…”Then the king said to the man of God, ‘Come home with me and refresh yourself, and I will give you a reward.’” In Mark 17:1, we see the importance of being a people believing in the potential of people to become what God made them to be…”And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.’” In overwhelming circumstances and situations, we are reminded that Jesus lived a life that didn’t avoid trouble or quit investing when the odds seemed stacked against Him or others. In a crowd of 5000, He and his disciples turned no one away from being fed, thus one of the greatest miracles occurred that day, and lives were changed (Matthew 14:13-21). Even moments before Jesus’ death, his investment in the thief on the cross reminds us that the invitation to life-change never stops because the opportunity to influence is always present (Luke 23:32-43).
What I know to be true is that,
A life of invitation is not a call to an easy life, but rather a call to an intentional life, one looking for opportunity no matter the situation.
Let’s learn to live a life of invitation in the good and the bad. When the hope of the Gospel is at stake, people are searching for someone who understands what they experience. The life of invitation we offer is extending our hand and saying we understand and we have a hope to offer.
What this looks like as we flesh it out will be different for me than for you, because that’s the thing about God…He is writing our story specifically for us. For me, it is keeping at the forefront that the planner in me (and trust me…I love planning out my day) must be open to interruption. I’ve seen opportunity literally knock at the door of my office with a young woman begging to have me explain salvation to her. I’ve also been knocked out of my daydreaming while grocery shopping to see the cashier needs a kind word. Interruption may not always be intentional, but we can always be intentional in how we respond to it. It may be the difference between heaven and hell for someone. It will always be worth our time.
I don’t know what this year holds for you…or me, for that matter. You know the old saying, “It’s so simple, it’s stupid”? I believe this holds true for living an inviting life. God left us here for people. People are the ministry – for all of us who call ourselves Christ followers. Let’s not complicate that which God has called us to be. Who is God calling you to invite into your life?