Sometimes I sing about how grace is an ocean, but it’s more than that. Grace is a riptide pulling me, covering me until I am choked by it and grace is the only air I can breathe in.
And there are days I need that kind of grace. That kind of survival grace that says, “If you don’t accept me, embrace me, you will not survive.”
“I want there to be a burning bush,” I told my friend as she sat across from me over breakfast. We talked about life, relationships, and what steps we will take after we both graduate in May.
There are days when I don’t want to go to church. Yet I just keep showing up, because I believe—at least, I want to believe—that God is faithful to move if I keep showing up. Sometimes the things I don’t want are the things I need the most desperately.
“When would you like to meet?” he asked me as he walked into the religion office.
I don’t, I thought. Instead I responded, “I am not sure.” I avoided eye contact, but then I noticed his face and the tears that began to swell up in his eyes.
It was in that moment I realized: I made my professor cry. He grabbed my upper arm and said, “You are like family. I care too much to not talk about what you’re going through.”
There will come a moment when you see a Save the Date attached to someone’s fridge by a magnet and your heart will drop. You were not invited, you will realize. And even though you shouldn’t have, you will bring it up in conversation when trapped together in car one evening while stopped at a red light. She will tell you it was because she didn’t want people there who would add stress. You’ll try to tell her that you would never cause her stress on her wedding day, but nothing you say will matter. You are not invited.
All of a sudden I am wounded by four words. You. Are. Not. Invited. I feel as though I am the third-grader not invited to the birthday party. I find myself crying and angry. But I recall the sermon I just preached about bitterness growing in a soil of hurt. I was asked to speak to the Introduction to Preaching class, so I stood in front of them preaching a sermon about resisting bitterness. Let here I am, feeling the tug into bitterness, anger, and resentment.
As my professor looked at me, I knew he cared. I turn in weekly reports about my spiritual development and any frustrations or joy I have along the journey. My mom always says I’m too honest, and I am just as honest (maybe even more so) in my reports. I think back to the words I typed and turned in, turned over so that someone would know that I cry myself to sleep sometimes. That I wake up and put on a smile around people who seek to hurt me. Sometimes I feel like the church is filled with fakers, and I am longing for something real. I admit these things. I admit some days are better than others, easier than others. I admit I struggle. I struggle with feeling worthy. I struggle with the loss I feel around me.
Jesus liked to teach using parables. After all, who doesn’t love to hear a good story? In Matthew 13:45-46, we read Jesus’ words when he said, “The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it” (emphasis added).
Jesus also told a parable about a great feast–a great wedding feast. A king invited all these people who refused to come. Jesus explains it like these in Matthew 22:7-10:
The king was furious, and he sent out his army to destroy the murderers and burn their town. And he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, and the guests I invited aren’t worthy of the honor. Now go out to the street corners and invite everyone you see.’ So the servants brought in everyone they could find, good and bad alike, and the banquet hall was filled with guests.
There is a God who not only invites you into his Kingdom, into his presence, but there is a God who is searching for you. God invites you into his house; he calls you to, “Come.” He is on the lookout because he wants to choose you. He says, “You are invited.” He brings those in who do not feel deserving, even those who were not originally invited. He says to them that they are worthy, and he invites them inside to share in the feast of the Kingdom.