Jesus once told a story about a king who threw an outrageous extravaganza to celebrate his son’s happy nuptials, a bash sure to blow the socks off every party planner in the kingdom. 5 star chefs filled the tables to overflowing. A chart-topping band stood ready to get the dance floor moving. The party giveaways would put Oprah’s Favorite Things to shame. However, in a shocking turn of events, every single one of the RSVP guests decided last minute they had better options and would not make the festivities. The king swallowed his pride, weathered the outrageous insult and pleaded a second time with the guests. Please, join us. The dinner’s ready. You won’t have to wait. It’s all gratis. It will be fun, I promise. Come, party with us. Yet again, every guest brushed off the invite.
But the king refused to surrender the party. This king never gives up on the possibility of joy. He sent his servants out for a third pass, instructing them to gather everyone they found, the riffraff and the wealthy entrepreneur, the ones who were belles of the ball at all the swankiest shindigs as well as those who never, ever get the call. Bring them all, good or bad, the king said. Robert Capon describes the scene:
[The King] doesn’t give a fig that they look like pigs and smell worse. He doesn’t care that they don’t know hors d’oeurves from Havana cigars. He doesn’t care that they eat with their hands and blow their noses without handkerchiefs. In other words, he does not make any stipulations about them at all. They do not have to get their act together in order to be worthy of the party, any more than the prodigal son had to guarantee amendment of life before getting the fatted calf. They have only, like the prodigal, to accept the acceptance and go with the flow. The king and the father, you see, are party people.
So in streams the motley assortment of high society debutantes, roughnecks and more than a few moochers. And the king was glad to have each and every one. However, off in the corner sat a solitary sulker. This was the one person present who had refused the king’s gift of a wedding garment, the gift allowing everyone proper attire for the gala. Always the kind host, the king asked, “Friend, how did you miss the gift at the door? Why don’t we go pick out any suit you like.”
But the brooding man sat mute. His silence leveled yet another snub of the party, another rebuff of the king. Apparently it’s possible to be at the party without really being at the party. At least the first set of guests had the decency to not feign interest, but this silent, sulking fellow mocked the generosity with his defiant posture. So the king gave the sulker what he wanted. The man obviously had no desire for the festivities, so the king removed him from the banquet hall with the vigor that surely would catch his attention and surely would force him to grapple with how, outside the king’s party, there’s sorrow, not feasting.
But everything about the story tells me this: the door was always open. With only the slightest wisp of interest, the king would again welcome the man back onto the dance floor.
The sad truth is this: not everyone wants the party. Everyone gets the invite, but not everyone has the good sense to show up and join in the soiree. But the party’s waiting for us, always. If you’ve ever wondered if you’re included – you are. And if you’ve ever wondered if you’ve run so far that you wouldn’t be welcomed back – you haven’t.