My daughter’s birthday is pushing its way toward me on the calendar. It will be joyful and fun and happy. Yet panic is trying to steal the excitement of planning the celebration. The “what ifs” attack me every year. What if we pick a date that conflicts with sports and activities and life? What if her best friend can’t make it? What if no one can? These things happen. I tend to poke and prod and bother until every last RSVP is accounted for, leading to the first sigh of relief. The second won’t come until every last friend has arrived to convince me her heart won’t be broken.
It’s not a dangerous predator. It’s a birthday party. Why do I feel this maternal instinct to fiercely protect my child?
Because I’ve felt the cold emptiness of rejection many times.
Because being stood up creates a mirror image of being let down.
Because an unaccepted invitation invites my ego to question my worth.
I’m all too familiar with the last minute text message. “Sorry, I really tried to make it, but…” I’ve also been the sender of those texts, so I should know they are made with good intentions.
But hurt often overpowers empathy.
Our minds know we shouldn’t take things like this so personally, but our hearts don’t always comply. We want people to show up. To confirm that we are not alone.
We ache to know that someone chose us over every other possibility.
We ache to be wanted.
We ache for love freely given.
Truth? We can stop aching. Jesus shows up.
He extends an invitation to all of us through His death and resurrection.
Love freely given.
What if we stop looking for confirmation in everyone else and show up for Him?
What if we remember that giving love is actually the way to receive it?
What if we stop letting busy (and our electronics) get in the way?
What if we live the truth that He matters more than every other possibility?
Pondering these new “what ifs” made me pause – how often do I leave God with excuses for why I can’t be there for His child? Only yesterday I offered one of my quick “He’ll understand” apology prayers, like a last minute text message, as I hurried on to my next distraction.
Maybe I fear rejection because I’m too used to rejecting. Maybe I expect it from others because I see it in myself.
We recently moved to a new state, right before my son’s birthday. Too far for old friends, too soon for new ones. So instead of flitting around in the background of a noisy party, our little family spent an entire day with him, doing his favorite activities. It didn’t involve piles of toys or popularity’s quota of guests. We were present. We showed up. My son said it was one of the best birthdays yet.
I’m getting better at extending and accepting invitations so the blessed gift of presence can be enjoyed with family and friends. And I’m multiplying those efforts for my Lord and Savior. Each day I show up for Him (at church, to pray, to read the Bible, to serve), the more I feel His amazing presence flowing through my life. And each time I can whole-heartedly agree, it is one of the best days yet.
Love always overpowers hurt.
When I choose Him over every other possibility, love freely given envelops me in love fully received.
“So, friends, confirm God’s invitation to you, His choice of you. Don’t put it off; do it now. Do this, and you’ll have your life on a firm footing, the streets paved and the way wide open into the eternal kingdom of our Master and Savior, Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 1:10-11(MSG)