All of them have happened in the last four years, except for one. The first invitation I accepted was the night I sat next to Thad at a Baptist Student Union sock hop in 1996 and told him I was going to be breaking up with my long time boyfriend over Thanksgiving. I told him that because a few weeks prior to the sock hop, Jesus had informed me that I was going to marry Thad. But that’s another story for another day. Aren’t you glad?
Last Thursday, in the middle of making sixty meatballs and a tomato tart, I got a text message from our co-pastor’s wife that read:
Thomas says she’s not staying here. We are packing her up now.
Without thinking, I responded with:
OK. She can stay with us. We want her.
And then I made a phone call that went something like this:
So. Thomas says she cannot stay where she is and I sorta invited her to stay with us. She can stay upstairs at the end of the hall on the twin bed we prepared last year just in case someone needed it.
I paused, waiting for Thad to lose his mind, but instead what I heard was this:
OK. We’ll figure it out.
Thirty minutes later, she was here.
Company came thirty minutes after that and amid moving totes and church supplies crowding the upstairs makeshift bedroom, three men and two women unloaded and reloaded two different areas, carving out room to hold one more and her belongings. Our house guest moved her things into her upstairs space while I called out an apology to her about the lack of privacy at the end of the hall and the lack of sheets on the bed.
From my safe place in the kitchen, as I burned the meatballs and over-cooked the pasta, I wondered what we had just done.
And from that safe place, I felt our whole earth tilt to hold the kingdom of Jesus that comes when things are upside-down.
This morning over coffee, we made bigger talk than yesterday and yesterday’s talk was bigger than the day before that. Things were awkward and weird but not as awkward and weird as they were on Saturday and I count that as progress. I folded laundry onto the coffee table while she applied for jobs and in the quiet minutes between tapping words into fields and Thad’s underwear piling up, we talked about what I write and what we should have for dinner and how hot we made the salsa yesterday.
We talked about a whole lot of nothing and a whole lot of everything and all the talking was good.
At a quarter of 11, she left the house for an afternoon of busyness with a friend of mine who knows the key to recovery looks an awful lot like constructive busyness and Jesus-centered conversation with a person who knows the long road to healing.
I am grateful for the time to breathe, alone.
And I’ll be grateful when she comes home.
There are a thousand things I want to tell you and a thousand more things I want to ponder in my heart, knowing the whole point of this house guest situation is to do a work in me. Every yes to Jesus is an invitation to unearth another layer of our souls that needs some gentle tilling and I know this full well.
The other thing I know full well is that when Jesus invites us to something, His invitation always looks like an invitation to say yes to something unknown.
We don’t get the game plan or the necessary skills or the method to cure whatever madness we think we might see over the ledge. We don’t get to see five years into the future to know whether or not our yes makes a difference. We don’t get to pick and choose what doors we’ll open should we say yes to some unknown proposition. We don’t get to study up before being pre-approved for the task because in Christ, we’re already pre-approved.
Jesus simply presents us with a scenario -something taken straight out of scripture no less, something like feeding the hungry or clothing the naked or giving shelter to the homeless or taking up our cross – and we get the choice to be either scared and obedient or comfortable and disobedient.
It’s really that simple and that complicated.
When Jesus invites us to say yes to something, He’s inviting us to trust Him more intimately. He’s inviting us to allow Him into the deepest recesses of our hearts that He might excavate those things that hinder our becoming more like Him. Jesus is inviting us to deeper levels of obedience in order that we present a more credible witness of the Church to the world we live in.
Jesus is inviting us to bring His kingdom here on earth,
One scared yes at a time.