By Tony Marciano
For a few years, I led a Bible study in my home. There were four couples that had grown close studying God’s Word. I was willing to be the Bible teacher while someone else facilitated the administration of the group.
Not only did we get together weekly, we got together other times outside the formal Bible study. Annually, we rented a boat and went swimming on Lake Norman. There were other times of fellowship. If we were having a party, we made sure everyone was invited.
A few years ago, I commented to my wife I wanted to be invited to a Super Bowl party. We did a lot of invitations to people to come over to our house; I wanted to be invited to someone else’s house. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen.
Come Super Bowl Sunday, I was home; alone with my wife; working on taxes. My wife tried to cheer me up but how much fun can you have getting your tax documents ready for the CPA?
A few days later I was talking to one of our Bible study members who told me he was over at another member’s house attending their Super Bowl party. In fact, another couple joined them. Of the four couples in the Bible study, three got together for a Super Bowl party; I prepared my taxes; alone; at home.
To be honest, I was hurt. I couldn’t understand how they forgot to invite the guy who hosted and taught the Bible class each week. If it was a spontaneous gathering, wouldn’t someone have noticed that the teacher wasn’t present? Wouldn’t you get on the phone, call him and make sure he comes over. No such call occurred.
I think the word got out I was upset. A week later, the host looked at me and said, “Tony, we love you.” I smiled. Then I was told I should have just called to see if anything was going on. I continued to smile.
It hurt that I didn’t get invited to the party. I run into others who didn’t get invited. I’m not talking about Super Bowl parties; I’m talking about feeling that they would never fit in. Either they never received the invitation or they lost the invitation. Either way, they are on the outside looking in, watching people enjoy each other’s fellowship while wondering what was wrong with them that they didn’t receive a ticket to come in.
I’ve come to realize the people I serve at the Rescue Mission are on the outside looking in. The baggage that they bring with them (not the luggage but the baggage) forces them to see themselves as unworthy of coming inside the party. They smile and wonder what it is like to be on the inside.
You don’t have to be impoverished or an addict to be on the outside looking in. All of us want to belong and be a part of something that is bigger than ourselves.
When the invitation is extended, some say, “God wouldn’t want me. I’m too … or not … I’ll stay here on the outside. He wouldn’t want me here. When someone says, “I’m too bad or if God really knew what I did with my life, He wouldn’t want me to come in.” My response is, “The host of the party – Jesus, personally asked me to ask you if you would come in and join us.”
This year, I received an invitation to a Super Bowl party. Friends don’t let friends stand on the outside, looking in.
I’ll be back in two weeks. Until then, live well my friend.
The Rev. Tony Marciano is the executive director of the Charlotte Rescue Mission. Go to www.charlotterescuemission.org for details.