A Staring Invitation
If you told me I never had to fly again, I’d give you a grateful grin and a puppy-dog hug. Although I am forever grateful to the Wright brothers for their incredible invention of the airplane, I don’t believe my liver, kidneys, and other vital organs were intended to soar through the air at a zillion miles an hour, sloshing around under my skin. (I feel the same way about riding in elevators, which is why I prefer to take the stairs).
I might hate to fly, but I do enjoy airports. I find them to be one of the most intriguing places on earth. Why? Because when I stop charging down the terminal and actually pay attention, I begin to see. I see toddlers in strollers and gray hair in wheelchairs. I see light and dark skin, moms and dads and young lovers, and little dogs in carriers. I see strangers from all over the world, all in one place in one moment in time. So much diversity yet we share something in common: we are all travelers. We all have somewhere to be.
A Shared Destiny
Walking through the airport reminds me that even in this world with billions of people, we’re not that different from one other. We all have family and friends and passions. We all want to be loved and noticed. We want to be warm and well-fed and understood. Most importantly, we were all created. We were all meant to be part of God’s family.
When I think about other human beings as similar rather than different, it’s not so scary to think about asking them questions or telling them a bit about myself. It’s only when I focus on how different someone is that I get tongue-tied and slip into my invisible cave.
It seems God knows our tendency to sink into ourselves. Here are a few reminders that describe humanity’s shared experience:
- We all experience temptation
( No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man… 1 Corinthians 10:13)
- We’ve all screwed up
(For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…Romans 3:23)
- We’ve all indulged when we could have refrained
(For all nations have drunk the wine of the passion of her sexual immorality…Revelation 18)
This means that when I pull my bulging suitcase through the Portland airport, I have something in common with the businessman from New York and the twelve-year-old from India.
A Gang of Misfits
During His life Jesus made a career out of finding commonality with strangers:
- He invited Himself over to a stranger’s house (Zacchaeus, see Luke 19)
- He invited an unpopular man (Matthew) to be on His ministry team (see Matthew 9)
- He invited a strange woman to help Him with His own need (water) then invited her into His story (John 4)
What a good God, showing us how to relate to others in such a simple way: by offering relationship.
As we prepare to celebrate Easter we have the opportunity to incorporate this rhythm of invitation. Here are some simple ideas to try out:
- When you’re at the airport, ask people where they’re going.
- At the grocery store, ask the person next to you what they’re making for dinner.
- At the library? Ask one of the staff to talk to you about their favorite books.
- Do Easter plans come up? A perfect time to ask someone if they have spiritual beliefs or not.
We all have an invitation to the kingdom. I’m invited, you’re invited, and so are those strangers in our stores and hotels and hospitals. Whether we’re at home, church, or the airport, we are gifted with the opportunity to invite people into our lives and to inquire about theirs. Sometimes it only takes one question to enter another’s story. Being curious can lead to great conversations.
So if you see me around town, staring at people, I’m not trying to be creepy. I’m simply looking for a shared experience.
How do you engage people? In the comments below, share ways you invite people into your life.
(For further dialogue, you can contact Heidi Beth Sadler at chasingebenezer.com).
The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®). ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. The ESV® text has been reproduced in cooperation with and by permission of Good News Publishers. Unauthorized reproduction of this publication is prohibited. All rights reserved.