Many of us are tired. We are tired of going on empty, going unnoticed, going nowhere altogether. We are weary. And then, an invite. It breaks through the clouds, a shimmer of light. Jesus approaches saying, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
As far as I knew all was well between my friends and me the summer before 7th grade. We met up at the pool and talked on the phone weekly.
But two weeks before school started, my perspective was shattered and so was my heart. One of my friends was having a slumber party with everyone but me. I wasn’t invited. I felt deeply rejected and excluded.
In her article, “Why Feeling Left Out Can Feel So Painful,” Margarita Tartakovsky writes, “Why does feeling left out feel so painful? Why does it affect us so much? It’s so powerful because our desire to belong is primal. It’s vital to our survival.”
We are hardwired to belong. When we are not invited, our human need to belong is threatened. According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, belonging is noted as one of the most foundational human needs, after physiological needs like water, air, etc., and the need for safety. And yet, how do we address our need for belonging?
The power of being invited meets our human need to belong.
Jesus meets us in our need for belonging by constantly extending invitations. We see in the Gospel writings invitations He extends like these: “Come to me.” “Follow me.” “Come and see.” Jesus’ invitations are always invitations to meet our need for belonging and include these three attributes:
- Jesus’ invitations are never forced.
When Jesus began His ministry, He invited people to join Him. For example, he invited Simon Peter and Andrew, two fisherman, to join him by saying, “Come, follow me and I will send you out to fish for people.” These two brothers left their nets immediately and followed Jesus.
Jesus never forces anyone to do anything. Matt Gordon writes, “It isn’t a demand or some forced thing. It isn’t petulant or needy. Just a whisper, a note, a song, a dance of wind through the trees.” Jesus’ invitations have always been open-handed and freely given. Love always requires free choice. Jesus gives us the freedom to say ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ to accept or reject, to follow or go our own way.
- Jesus’ invitations are for what we need.
When I was in graduate school every day was filled to the brim with work and school. The spring of my last semester, my husband and I bought a patio set for our apartment. Sadly it went unused for several weeks, until one Friday afternoon, I felt a quiet invitation to go outside and sit. After a few minutes of busying myself with other tasks, I finally said ‘yes’ to going to the patio. For the first time in three years I looked up at the sky and took some much needed deep breaths. It had been a very long time since I looked at the clouds in the bright, blue sky. Jesus knew I needed to stop and rest. I could not believe how replenished I felt after sitting outside for just thirty minutes. Jesus knew what I needed and I was so grateful I took Him up on the invitation.
Matthew 11:28 is a beautiful invitation to rest, peace, grace, and freedom. “Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
Isn’t this the most beautiful invitation you have ever heard? Many times in my life I have needed this kind of recovery. I’ve been exhausted and deeply desired unforced rhythms of grace.
Jesus uniquely invites us to exactly what we need. We may not even know we need the invitation, but if we follow, we learn to live freely and lightly.
- Jesus’ invitations are to be with Him.
Jesus’ invitations are ways He gives Himself to us. How many of us would say we are carrying pretty heavy loads at work and home? Jesus invites us to walk with Him and work with Him and let Him show us how to live. We aren’t meant to carry our loads alone. His invitations are to be with Him and to realize more deeply He is with us.
The invitation to be with Jesus meets our core human need to belong. Jesus will never reject us or leave us out. His invitations are inclusive and out of His love and acceptance of us. We were created by God to experience belonging to God.
Eric Schmidt writes, “Find a way to say yes to things. Say yes to invitations to a new country, say yes to meet new friends, say yes to learn something new. Yes is how you get your first job, and your next job, and your spouse, and even your kids. Even if it’s a bit edgy, a bit out of your comfort zone, saying yes means that you will do something new, meet someone new, and make a difference. Yes lets you stand out in a crowd, be the optimist, see the glass full, be the one everyone comes to. Yes is what keeps us all young.”
Many incredible things in life begin with an invitation. What ways might Jesus be inviting you to experience Him? What keeps you from saying ‘yes’?
By Kelly Wright