When your household consists of multiple kids below the age of 10 in minimum square footage, “quiet time” isn’t a currency that runs in abundance. Last year my wife and I and some friends set off on a trip with grand ideas of being alone with our thoughts and reflections. I had a picture in my mind of a good book, a cup of coffee and nothing to interrupt me. My thought was, “If I can only get alone, I might find that rich time with the Lord I’ve been longing for.”
On the first morning the smell of coffee and warm breakfast filled the room, and we gathered around the table to eat before setting off on our individual journeys. What came next wasn’t the eat ‘n’ run experience I had in mind. Just moments into the meal I realized my longing wasn’t to be alone, but to be present in what God was doing amongst us over a meal. We laughed and cried while we shared stories.
This wasn’t the first meal I had shared with friends, but what God refreshed in my heart around that table was the deep fellowship that we can have with one another when He is the reason we gather. Amidst our hectic pace of life, we lose sight of something precious – a means of grace given to the people of God to gather and reflect on His goodness and provision.
I need community, a group of people committed to seeing me look more like Jesus. When we aren’t diligent to fight for that, our fingers grip the things of this world tighter, and our affections drift from the Creator to the creation.
Tim Chester talks about drift in this way:
Our problem is that we think of ourselves as being the center of our world. We think of our lives as a story, and if we’re Christians, as God being one of the characters in the story. We look for Him when we need Him and expect Him to be grateful when we serve Him. He’s a lovely piece of our story, but we still think of it as our story. But it’s not our story. It’s God’s story.
Community is a means of grace by which God uses the body to reorient our mind’s attention and heart’s affection back to Him. God’s people have gathered to break bread together and to adore Him together since the very beginning. In his book “Bowling Alone,” Robert Putnam reveals that there has been a 33% decrease in families eating meals together and a 45% decline in meals taken with friends. We have exchanged this treasured experience for commercialized hospitality.
For the follower of Christ, a meal is a precious opportunity to invite others into our lives. A meal involves welcoming, creating space, listening and providing. In his book “A Meal with Jesus,” Tim Chester says, “Meals slow things down.…Meals force you to be people-oriented instead of task-oriented.…It’s possible to remain at a distance from someone in public gatherings.…Meals bring you close.”
We all come to the idea of community with our own anxieties and expectations, but the meal is a place for those walls to come down. Around the table we can experience Christ anew.