A little pink envelope waited on the kitchen table.Nervously I tore into it. "You are invited to my birthday party!" Surprised and delighted I ran to tell mom that this time I was asked to join in the fun!
Last time another girl in our class asked all the girls to her party. Everyone was invited, except me. Awkwardly I watched as they giggled their excitement and made plans for Saturday's fun.
But on this day, just a few weeks later, all of us found an envelope ready to be opened when we got home from school.
I was asked to the party but another invitation was waiting for me as well. It held an offer which I readily accepted and embraced, unaware of the future impact of my consent.
On party day my mom drove me into town, across the river and to a neighborhood of humble houses, clean, painted and well kept with nice-enough cars in the driveways. Stepping out of our car I felt shy, not knowing what to expect.
Looking back, I wonder if the soft carpeting and indoor plumbing held as much fascination as the party itself because my memory skips the actual celebration. It starts up again as the car load of girls and the birthday girl's mom turn from the gravel road onto our long winding lane, leading to the rented farmhouse my family and I called home.
As the car slowly made its way closer to the house, our little group suddenly became quiet. Looking up, my heart nearly stopped. Oh. No. I hadn't even considered this part of being included. The house, unpainted, dirty and stark in comparison to the one we just left, made me wish I could become invisible. The grayness of the boards blended with the darkening colorless sky. All I could see was the muddy yard and broken front porch door. With flushed face, I could hardly breathe.
What must they be thinking?
I could hardly stand it. What must they be thinking?
I wish I had never been invited.
That's when the second invitation arrived. Swift and direct as a well-aimed arrow, it found my heart and slipped right in. Confirming what I feared to be true, the message was clear: not as good. Not as good. Not as good. Lesser-than. Not as good. Not good enough.
Agreeing, I took it willingly, folded it into the fabric of my being, and stepped out of the car. After politely thanking the birthday girl’s mom with a shining little cover-up smile, I turned away, trudging slowly toward the dilapidated house.
Today that second invitation gets a second look. At the time, it felt so accurate. The filter of shame distorted who I thought I was. ‘Not good enough’ and ‘what must they be thinking’, felt so spot-on. But now I examine another view of that house, my family and me.
I have taken a steady, honest, determined look at my life in my growing up years. I’ve come to learn of Father God's deep love for me that has nothing to do with being poor or rich, included or left out. Every person has worth unconnected to what their house looks like or the family they came from. Now I recognize that devastating messages often slip in with painful experiences.
Now I know. I really don't have to accept those kinds of invitations any more. Healthy boundaries now allow me to say, “No thank you. Return to sender.”
I am loved. I am known. I am free from the burden of shame.
Thank you, thank you, Father God.