“What’s becoming clearer and clearer to me is that the most sacred moments, the ones in which I feel God’s presence most profoundly, when I feel the goodness of the world most arrestingly, take place at the table.” Shauna Niequist, Bread and Wine
Whenever people talk about finding God in food and healing around the table, I can’t help but first assume it means fancy food and long dinners and the gift of hospitality.
But when I look at my actual life, at the moments when people and food have mingled in a way that have ministered hope to me, it’s never been fancy yet it’s always been healing.
In the midst of mostly bad news in the world, today I’m reflecting on five times when food was the gospel to me.
I. Before the big event.
I stop by her house on my way to the local venue, notes packed in my bag, nerves high in my heart.
I peck on the window of her back door as is the ritual but by the time she sees me, I’m already inside. I’m nervous and grateful for the priveldge of speaking to thousands of women in a few hours.
Also I look forward to it being over.
She welcomes me in, asks how I’m feeling, and motions to the jar of chocolate chip cookies she made that day and offering me one as big as my face.
I don’t know if it’s the fatigue of preparing for a big event or the small kindness of her friendship in the form of sugar and butter and chocolate, but holding that cookie, I feel the sting of tears.
If it weren’t for the mascara and the thousands of people I was about to stand in front of, I would have curled up in a ball and wept.
II. Pregnant with twins.
It’s 2003 and I’m a few months pregnant with two babies at one time. I believe down in my bones that food will never, ever taste good again. John is out of town on a trip so I drive over to my sister’s house and she and her husband offer to sleep in their boys’ rooms so I can have their bedroom for the night.
Settling beneath her heavy blankets in that warm, familiar room, I half-heartedly watch Entertainment Tonight like you do. My life exists these days in the pregnant Twilight Zone of simultaneous starvation and food-aversion. My sister comes quietly into the room and places a small plate on the bed beside me.
On that plate is a grilled cheese sandwich, white bread cut diagonal down the center.
It was a magical and delicious combination. I’ve never forgotten.
III. Busy work season.
It’s months after John quit his job and we’ve decided to see what it’s like for me to work and him to stay home.
A series of yeses to six weeks of speaking engagements when A Million Little Ways releases has me traveling from Tampa to Houston to Indianapolis and a few places in between.
Though the trips all fit in my schedule, I’m surprised by the pressure rising up in my soul.
And so one Sunday when I’m home, I make soup. I put on music, chop carrots and celery and garlic. I warm bread and add heavy dollops of butter on top. Through the open window, I hear the kids play in the driveway while I work.
The sound of their laughter mingles with the wind blowing through the colored leaves in the yard and I’m surprised by the moment that feels both sacred and ordinary all at once.
Soup means I’m home, I’m here, I’m present.
The act of making soup becomes a spiritual act of worship.
IV. The 20 hour silent retreat.
There isn’t time for a weekend away. There isn’t even time for a full 24 hours.
But I feel the need for retreat so strongly that I pack up my car and drive an hour to the retreat center run by the Sisters of Mercy, taking refuge in a simple room with two twin beds and enough silence to fill a stadium.
I’m nervous about eating with strangers as we always have to do at retreat centers.
But sitting around the table and talking about the weather is strangely calming tonight.
For dinner, they serve Mexican food and kale salad.
I leave the table without having to clear one dish. I walk back to my room with a smile.
V. Dinner at home.
Our daughter has a band concert tonight and my mother-in-law is coming with us. We invite her to dinner beforehand, Edie’s perfect beef stew recipe with carrots and sweet potatoes and perfection.
Thirty minutes before dinner, I realize I forgot to pick up bread at the store. Oh well, I think, the soup is good on it’s own.
It would be better with bread.
Not five minutes later, the doorbell rings. A box sits on our doorstep from a publisher, one of the nearly daily deliveries I get from friends and colleagues releasing their books into the world.
I open the box and see Ann Voskamp’s newest release, The Broken Way. I smile, pick it up and whisper a prayer for her.
The book is beautiful.
And then I look in the box and have to blink twice to believe it.
There, tied up in a simple plastic bag, is a loaf of bread.
Just in time for dinner.
Not one of these was fancy food requiring a long dinner or the gift of hospitality.
A chocolate chip cookie.
A grilled cheese sandwich.
Soup in my kitchen.
Mexican food with strangers.
A loaf of bread in a box.
But isn’t it all a miracle, that a weary, thirsty, exhausted body can be restored in the span of time between bites? Our simple offerings go further than we might think.
The healing gospel of Jesus shows up in simple ways we might never think to expect.
How has the offering of food been an extension of the gospel to you? I’d love to hear your story in the comments.
We broke the bread that came with Ann Voskamp’s book, The Broken Way, that very night. While the bread is gone, the book remains and is now available in bookstores. I can’t wait to read my copy. Get yours here today or wherever books are sold.