An unassuming word has found its way into my heart lately, and has gently begun to unlock parts of me previously closed off. I share it with you today, hoping that this unassertive word may slip into your own heart and begin its tender work there too.

It is the word ‘invitation’.

Don’t we all love to receive an invitation? A person asking us out on a date. A family member asking us over for a meal. A colleague inviting us to do a presentation. A friend inviting us to join them on a trip.

An invitation holds the possibility of relationship and interesting experiences, of new beginnings and opportunities, of laughter and fun. And with every graciously-extended invitation, we have a choice to make—whether to accept or decline.

You may be wondering why this simple word has me so enamoured. Well, it is because it has shifted my understanding of how God works in our lives. Far from being the domineering, demanding God that many of us imagine (especially those of us with ‘strict’ Christian upbringings), I’m realising that God is a God of gracious invitation.

The first invitation he extends to us is to believe he exists and loves us. His next invitation is to trust and follow him. As we begin to journey with God, he extends new invitations, personalised to each one of us. Invitations to reach out to people and show them kindness, to walk on a path of inner healing and growth, to serve him with our unique blend of talents and gifts.

It turns out that every invitation he extends can be either accepted or declined. Surprisingly, declining an invitation from God doesn’t make him angry or love us any less. But, even more surprisingly, knowing I have the choice to say yes or no to God, makes me long to say yes. For I honestly believe that the invitations he extends (even those that take me out of my comfort zone) are intended to bless me.

My rebel heart riles against rules and ‘have-to’s’, and even the word—much used in my Christian faith—‘obedience’. I believe that God, who knows me so well, has instead given me this beautiful word: invitation. It is a word suffused with his longing and love and gentleness. It is a word of freedom and choice.

And it is a word that makes me long to leap up and shout, ‘Yes!’

Where do you sense God extending an invitation to you right now?