My best friend and I took a cross-country road trip the summer before our senior year of college. We spent about 3 and a half weeks traveling from Indiana to California and back. All we took with us was a tent, a couple of sleeping bags, and a lot of hiking clothes.
On our way back east we hit some bad weather and, long story short, lucked into staying in a nice hotel with a friend that happened to be in Denver for a wedding.
I remember walking into the hotel around 2:00 AM and falling into what felt like the most comfortable bed I had ever slept in. For the past 3 weeks we had been sleeping on the hard ground, so this change of pace was welcomed and appreciated.
The next morning Vanessa and I got up with plans of exploring Denver. We didn’t know anyone at the hotel except for the friend who had invited us in like stray puppies, but was now busy with family.
We started our day sitting down in the lobby of the hotel indulging in the continental breakfast and watching what we assumed was the bride and grooms family and friends chatter and celebrate in anticipation for the wedding that evening.
As we watched from a distance we tried to pick out who we thought the bride might be. We had never met her, didn’t even know her name.
And suddenly out of nowhere a dark-haired girl walked up to our table and said, “Hi, I’m Jess! Do you guys want to come to our wedding tonight?”
Vanessa and I stared blankly at each other, speechless. Because we had no intentions of attending a strangers wedding during this trip. Or any wedding at all for that matter.
We didn’t know Jess, and we didn’t know the groom either. Why would she even want two random girls crashing her wedding, we had nothing to offer.
And on top of that, we had nothing to wear. The nicest thing I had with me was my favorite running shorts and a pair of sea-foam green Converse. And no wedding gift, we didn’t deserve such a kind invitation.
“Well, we don’t really have anything to wear,” I told her.
“That’s okay! Come in whatever you have!”
Stuck between not wanting to hurt our new friends’ feelings by not accepting her invitation, but also not wanting to awkwardly walk into a wedding in shorts and a t-shirt, we sat and debated on whether or not we would go.
But it’s not every day you get invited to a strangers wedding by the bride herself, so we figured why not?
We hopped in my car and found the closest mall to where we were staying. After an hour or two of shopping, we both found cheap dresses that would match the nicest pair of shoes we had brought. We got as dressed up as we could, hair in ponytails and barely any makeup, laced up our Converse and headed to the wedding empty-handed.
The crazy thing was that when we showed up, we not only felt welcomed but also included.
They didn’t sit us in the back by ourselves, instead at the reception they put us up front, right in the middle of all the action.
Jesus is a lot like this. He invites us to come as we are, empty-handed and broken and completely undeserving and then makes us feel included and welcome.
I’m confident that if Vanessa and I would have shown up to the wedding in shorts and t-shirts Jess would have still been thrilled to see us.
She didn’t care what we were wearing or how messy we looked, just that we showed up ready to celebrate with them.
And that’s all Jesus asks of us too. To repent and show up every day ready for whatever he has in store for us.
To come in whatever we have, messy and mismatched and probably a little awkward, but willing to lay down our lives, follow him, and celebrate all that he’s done for us.