It’s been a while since I was invited to a wedding; these things seem to come in clusters and the last cluster is long over. A few weeks ago, however, I received a long-awaited invitation to a good friend’s wedding, a celebration that has been long in the making. This morning, my daughter and I went shopping for wedding outfits, as we prepare ourselves to respond to this invitation in a way that reflects how absolutely thrilled we are to celebrate with our friend.
Often, in spiritual direction, we talk about invitations. We wonder together at the invitations you might be sensing from God in a particular situation. We ponder how you might want to respond to these invitations.
I suppose the word is supposed to be, well, inviting. You know, open, non-pushy, spacious.
This week, I found myself wondering about invitations that come to us in ways we wouldn’t choose. Those undesired invitations, if you will. Not every invitation is as eagerly awaited as the one to my friend’s wedding. There are also invitations to attend a funeral, or the mammogram clinic, say, or to meet your bank manager to discuss some gritty financial situation. How do we respond to the invitations we wish we could avoid, or those that come to us in ways that are inconvenient, painful or that cause grief?
This weekend, I know that friends are gathered either at a guys’ poker night or a women’s get-together. We weren’t invited to either. Instead my invitation is of another kind: will I see this repeated cycle of exclusion and isolation - one that has characterised our time in Spain - as an invitation to turn my attention to the true inclusion that is mine in the relational connection of Father, Son and Spirit? Could this alone time be an opportunity to lean into the truth of my belonging to God? Perhaps even the pain I experience in this place could be alternatively seen as the envelope containing my invitation to move deeper into divine connection?
Increasingly, I wonder if many of our most significant invitations come unlooked for and undesired at times we would wish were different. Could a fear or anxiety be the bearer of a holy invitation to turn towards the Spirit of Peace? Could a tendency towards depression be a repeated invitation to be upheld by Grace? Might a rising sense of frustration or anger be experienced as a prompt to open ourselves more fully to being known? Or the loss of a dear friend an invitation to receive the sweet compassion of Christ who has walked a very human path, and knows our pain?
Seen in this way, all our limitations, our pain, and even our sin patterns can be seen as invitations to receive into our very real and ordinary lives more of the empowering presence of the Spirit of God. How far this seems from our responses of self-pity, self-judgement or shame that commonly follow such experiences.
How might the circumstances of your life currently bear invitations from the lover of your soul? What is the nature of the invitation? And how do you want to respond?