There's More Room
From Love Does, by Bob Goff
I used to think I needed an invitation to get into most places, but now I know I’m already invited.
My friend Brandon and I were in Washington, DC, together taking care of a few things. One night, we were close to Capitol Hill and it was pretty late—almost midnight. We noticed a bunch of cars awkwardly parked around the Library of Congress. You would investigate, right? Yeah, us too. As we got closer, we saw a discreetly placed sign on the dashboard of one of the cars that was being used to barricade the Library. It read, “National Treasure 2.”
It didn’t take us long to make sense of the scene, and practically in unison we turned to each other and blurted, “No way!
“They’re filming National Treasure 2 inside the Library of Congress right now.” We knew right then and there that our evening plans had changed—we were going to sneak onto the set.
We ran back to where we were staying, swapped our suits for blue jeans and shirts so we could look like part of the film crew, and rushed back to the Library. We had to dodge a couple of security guards, dash across a couple of lawns, and cut through some bushes, but a few minutes later, we found ourselves in the area where all the electrical cables and camera equipment were being unpacked. There was a side entrance for crew only, so we played the part and walked toward the door like we were supposed to be there. Nobody noticed us. People were passing us on the left and right, but nobody suspected a thing. We just kept acting like we belonged and walked farther and farther into the Library. At the end of each corridor there was a small sheet of paper taped to the wall with an arrow and the word “Set” printed on it. We were getting worried that this was so easy.
We rounded a corner and were immediately met by a metal detector and a guard. The burst of adrenaline I felt told me we were busted—this caper was going to end poorly, for sure, and I knew we would be in a lot of trouble for being in the Library of Congress in the middle of the night.
“Where are your crew badges?” the security guard barked at us while talking to his girlfriend on his cell phone.
“We don’t have them,” we said kind of pathetically.
He mumbled something to his girlfriend about guys like us on the film crew and shook his head. Irritated, he waved us through the metal detector. We moved through and sprinted down the hall while the guard was shouting something about “badges. . . next time.”
We turned the last corner and made it to the set. We were standing in the Library of Congress and it was two o’clock in the morning. The building is massive and ornate and holds hundreds of thousands of books. Millions of books. Every book, supposedly. I wondered how the members of Congress had time to read all these.
There was a somber silence underneath the grand dome. And it was hot. The movie lights were on, and, having since seen the movie, I think they were filming the scene where the actors are looking for the Presidential Book of Secrets. It’s a pretty cool scene. We could have powered the lights with our nervous energy. Mostly because of all of the Capitol police and security guards surrounding the set. It’s one thing to walk onto the set like you know what you’re doing. But once you get there, everybody has a job and looks busy. It’s not like we could grab a camera and start filming. So after a short while, once we knew we had a great story to tell the next day, we started whispering to each other, “How are we going to get out of here without getting caught?” Now is when I should cue the intense movie score.
Just when Brandon and I were about to turn on our heels to get out, Nicolas Cage rounded the corner in a tuxedo along with lead actress Diane Kruger in her gown. We moved out of the way as they walked by and, without even talking, fell in behind them like we belonged in their entourage. No kidding. We walked past cast, crew, and security as well as the Capitol Hill police. Nobody even asked us a question. We followed the actors right out the front door, and when they turned to the right to head toward their trailers with stars on them, we turned to the left to head into some bushes with leaves on them.
My brief cameo on the National Treasure 2 set was not my first time in DC. The Goff family has been to the White House many times. Not officially or anything, just to visit and see the nice paintings and guys with guns under their jackets talking into their sleeves. Our visits always seemed to be around Easter because there would be this swanky Easter egg hunt happening on the lawn. We never got invited to that event, but Sweet Maria and I had a fun idea for the kids. We’d show up Easter morning and hide eggs along the black metal fence that separates those on the “inside” from the rest of us. We would dress up and everything to pretend like we were part of the distinguished gathering. I was always tempted to roll one of our eggs under the fence so the guys with suits and earpieces would tackle us and then talk into their sleeves.
Our little strip of grass on the sidewalk of Pennsylvania Avenue was modest in comparison to the beautifully manicured Rose Garden. With such a small area to work with, our eggs were super easy to spot. The kids were young enough that they really didn’t notice the lack of hiding places. They just figured they were really good at finding Easter eggs, I guess. I’ve always wanted my kids to know that they were included in important things, that they belonged there, that they were invited.
There are lots of things in life you and I don’t get invited to, though. I’ve never been invited to the Oscars or to Paul McCartney’s birthday party or to a space shuttle launch. I’m waiting for my invitation to National Treasure 3. If I got an invitation to any of those things, or for that matter, to the real White House Easter egg hunt, I’d definitely go. There’s nothing like feeling included.
There is only one invitation it would kill me to refuse, yet I’m tempted to turn it down all the time. I get the invitation every morning when I wake up to actually live a life of complete engagement, a life of whimsy, a life where love does. It doesn’t come in an envelope. It’s ushered in by a sunrise, the sound of a bird, or the smell of coffee drifting lazily from the kitchen. It’s the invitation to actually live, to fully participate in this amazing life for one more day. Nobody turns down an invitation to the White House, but I’ve seen plenty of people turn down an invitation to fully live.
Turning down this invitation comes in lots of flavors. It looks like numbing yourself or distracting yourself or seeing something really beautiful as just normal. It can also look like refusing to forgive or not being grateful or getting wrapped around the axle with fear or envy. I think every day God sends us an invitation to live and sometimes we forget to show up or get head-faked into thinking we haven’t really been invited. But you see, we have been invited—every day, all over again.
There’s no doubt Jesus invites us to have some very cool experiences in our lives, and for that matter, in the afterlife. Jesus tells a story in the Bible about a rich guy who had a banquet. The rich guy invited lots of people, but most of them made excuses and didn’t come, so the guy sent his servants to invite other folks—but this time he invited the unlikely ones, people who normally don’t get invited to anything, folks like me. The message he had for this new round of people was simple: “There’s more room.” That was it. It wasn’t a deep theological treatise. Yet it was exactly that, deep and theological. I think life is like that banquet Jesus talked about. I think God sends out His messengers to tell everybody there’s plenty of room and there’s free food and conversation and adventure and a wonderful and generous host who has invited us by name.
It’s as though the people invited to the White House Easter egg hunt don’t bother to show, and the president sends out the guys in the suits to see if anybody else wants to come. Maybe people like us who were just on the other side of the fence. The servants come up to each of us, lean in close, and whisper in our ears, “There’s more room.” That’s it. That’s all that needs to be said. There aren’t any magic words to say in response, and we don’t need to give a speech or get a bracelet or a bumper sticker or a tattoo. We just need to decide to be fully engaged. In that way, life can be like a sweepstakes, one where you must be present to win.
I don’t think God is the kind of guy who forces Himself on anybody either. If people don’t want to come to the banquet, He’s not bitter or anything. He loves them all the same, but He’s not going to force them. Instead, He just keeps looking. He keeps saying there’s more room to those who really want to be invited to where He is. He’s like any of us in that way. I think God pays attention to our hearts and enjoys when people want to get close to Him. He knows our sadness and the brokenness we want to hide from Him, and He sends people to look for us.
When I was young and thought about God and church and Jesus, I would shy away because I thought getting close to God was like breaking onto the set of National Treasure 2. I thought there were lots of long corridors to navigate, there were arrows pointing in all kinds of directions, and the religious people were the security guards. They were the people checking to see if you had been invited. But Jesus never acted like that. When you read the Bible, the people who loved Jesus and followed Him were the ones like me who don’t get invited places. Yet Jesus told His friends they were invited anyway. In fact, He told them that the religious people weren’t the ones who decided who got into heaven and who didn’t. He said the people who followed Him should think of themselves more like the ushers rather than the bouncers, and it would be God who decides who gets in. We’re the ones who simply show people their seats that someone else paid for.
Can you even believe that Jesus would invite people to a banquet and they wouldn’t want to show up? When we accept Jesus’ invitation to show up to life, we get to do life with Him, and He’s way more powerful and important than the president. Or Nicolas Cage.
A couple of other things happen when we accept Jesus’ invitation to participate with Him in life. Obstacles that seem insurmountable aren’t. Impediments that we believe disqualify us don’t. When we show up to participate with Jesus in the big life, we’re participating with the very being who made life in the first place. He gently asks us how we are and invites us to get better together with Him.
Accepting the invitation to show up in life is about moving from the bleachers to the field. It’s moving from developing opinions to developing options. It’s about having things matter to us enough that we stop just thinking about those things and actually do something about them. Simply put, Jesus is looking for us to accept the invitation to participate. It’s like the president is calling and we just need to answer the phone. We need to show up.
When we accept life’s invitation, it’s contagious too. Other people will watch us and start seeing life as something more amazing, more whimsical than before. When you show up to the big life, people (the type who don’t think they’re invited) start seeing invitations everywhere as thick as colorful fall leaves. They don’t think about their pain or their weakness any longer. Instead, they think about how incredible a big life really is and how powerful the one who is throwing the banquet is too.
Jesus wants us to come. He’s sending His servants out to tell the people standing at the fences and in the libraries that they’re invited to the party. He’s sending you an invitation too, in the sunrise, in the sound of a bird, or in the smell of coffee drifting lazily from the kitchen. The one who has invited you is way more powerful than any of the impediments we think we’re facing, and He has just one message for us. He leans forward and whispers quietly to each of us, “There’s more room.”