The invitation arrived in a pure white envelope, embossed with gold with a stunning red logo; it fairly exuded opulence and I was impressed. So it was that on that night I drove down a country lane, expecting to see a large estate aglow with Christmas lights. Ah, lifestyles of the rich and famous, here I come. Perhaps valet parking? I’d selected the nicest outfit I had in the closet, and felt fairly assured that I could muster enough confidence to fit in with the holiday gathering. My expectations had risen to a tingling new height. I probably smiled all the way up the Interstate.
Sure enough, there were glittering lights, but only on a handrail, leading up some steps to a rather modest looking mobile home.
Pulling in the driveway I fumbled for the beautiful invitation. The address checks out. Perhaps this is their little hideaway in the woods, maybe they have residences at the seaside, and in other prestigious locations. Maybe these affluent people are slightly eccentric?
Whatever. Here I am, and I will do just fine, with these lovely, wealthy people. They invited me!
Putting on my biggest smile, I walked up to the door. The welcome I received was certainly gracious from a couple who “had it made.” The man smiled broadly and patted my shoulder; the woman embraced me warmly. It didn’t feel phony. At once I felt welcome, although questions raced through my mind like the Indianapolis 500. What’s going on? What am I getting myself in for?
Delectable smells pulled me into the dining room where the table groaned under bowls of delicious food. Soon we were seated, and the meal was being served.
I was relieved that the man and woman kept up the conversation. I just couldn’t get my words lined up in the proper order. I was still overwhelmed with what I was seeing, and what I was not seeing.
I knew it was rude to stare, so I didn’t check out the furnishings, etc. in the room. I had expected to see gorgeous possessions and beautiful decor, but gradually I felt comfortable here. Amazing.
The way she looked at him when he spoke, the way he looked at her . . . I’d never seen this kind of warmth in the people I am used to. I’m sure you’d call it love, but that word never had such a full and marvelous meaning before.
Words flowed back and forth between them, and I was like a wide-eyed child, drinking it all in. He was telling about his youth and early years after college. Ah, perhaps now I’ll find out what sort of business he’s in, how he made his millions, etc. But no, finances, investments, money weren’t mentioned. Instead, he spoke in a matter of fact way about the friends he’d made along the years, places they visited, even several churches they had attended. Much to my amazement, the thought suddenly intruded on my mind: what if my friends could see me now. Oh, well.
She softly exclaimed about the disease he had survived. Then she went on to relate a cute story about one of their pets, now deceased. I can not tell you all she said, because my memory was not attuned to this unexpected conversation, this unusual turn of events.
Finally, I blurted it out. My good manners stepped aside and I just asked, “But what of your riches?”
“Ah, dear. Yes, I must give credit where it is due. God, the Maker of the Universe, the Creator of that magnificent night sky out there…” he gestured to the large window with drapes not drawn. “He is the One who has changed everything! He has made me rich beyond my dreams.”
In the pause that now warmed the entire room my eyes blinked, and then I saw. They were rich in love and loyalty towards each other. They were rich in tears from his debilitating physical condition. They were rich in hospitality. They were rich in ways I hadn’t even considered important, before this evening.
Suddenly, I saw the flash of a fireball out the window and heard several tremendous explosions. Sirens screamed from the city as huge flames engulfed its south side.
Speechless, I grabbed hard onto the arms of the chair, my eyes straining to see past the forest to the city that lay below us.
“The Troubles have come,” the man explained simply. “Before now, all the violence and wars were on other continents. Now, it’s coming to our very door step.”
With a stabbing heaviness in my heart that nearly took my breath away I knew, somehow, I knew. My jazzy little apartment, my funky friends, my flippant lifestyle all lay down there in the city. The city now ablaze. My job, my income, my amusement, it would all be gone.
“God will bring us through this temporary disaster. The Bible speaks of this time, and the glorious time to come when all believers will be celebrating in Heaven, the new Kingdom of God. This is why Jesus died. You have heard of Him . . .”
It was more of a statement, than a question. I nodded my head. “Please tell me. I was so young and inattentive then.”
Simply, I heard of Jesus, coming to earth to show us what God desires for mankind. Jesus, dying at the hands of cruel men, to pay for the rebellion of mankind before a pure and holy God. Jesus, raising from the dead, seen by over 500 men, reassuring, teaching, demonstrating God’s wonderful love, then ascended from earth to the sky. A band of 120 followers praying together, then emboldened by the very Holy Spirit of God, going out to the whole world to tell them God’s message. Repent of your willful ways. Ask Jesus to save you. Live your life for Him. Each of us will stand before God’s Throne in Eternity. Some will have neglected and rebelled, they have chosen Hell. Others who received Jesus as Savior have chosen Heaven as their destination.
“But the Troubles!” I interrupted, “What in the world are we supposed to do now?”
“As always, we live from one day to the next. God shows the believer some service to render to others, some adventure of depending upon Him. We trust Him; we obey Him.”
What had seemed earlier to be a fanciful tale now made sense. I can’t explain the warmth in my heart any other way. I bowed my head and prayed. I gave up my pursuit of wealth and adventure, independence and popularity.
Now in the glad embrace of the man and the woman I realized the value of the invitation I’d received. They were rich in faith, in trust, in unpretentiousness. And they had loved me into their family, God’s family. My expectations had been surpassed. It was a night to always remember. # # #
by Elaine Hardt ©2003