Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all people. Acts 2:46-47a NASB
About six years ago, my grandmother gifted us her beautiful wooden dining room set. The table is precious to me. It is a place I remember gathering around, eating her infamous homemade mac-and-cheese topped with freshly cracked black pepper. I remember sitting there hiding my giggles as she chided my grandfather for eating hot dogs straight from the package in the refrigerator. As the youngest of my generation in the family, these few memories are invaluable.
Life has been chaotic the last several months with 11 houseguests in my care and many meals quickly eaten on the go, but this table remained solid. Within the first 12 hours of everyone’s arrival, the table was expanded to capacity – both leaves latched in place – and surrounded by no less than 10 chairs at a time for four months. Around this table we would gather as schedule allowed, share meals, laugh and share stories, grow together, and prepare for what was to come. It was a place to work, to have difficult conversations, to fellowship. It was the safe gathering place.
When my friends eventually returned home, I put the leaves away. As I pushed each end of the table back towards the middle, now just six chairs surrounding and four occupied at dinner, I am hit by the warmth of so much love that this table has seen and the emptiness of so few bodies around it. The kitchen looks so big, the floor a bit more scuffed in places. I am glad to have more time with my family, glad for the hustle to slow down, glad for time to recharge. And yet, I am missing our extended “family” of 15 gathered around the table. A mix of language, food, and laughter.
I wonder if this might have been how the disciples felt after Jesus’ death and subsequent commission to go out into the world. They had lived in community for three years, gathering around the table as ministry allowed, breaking bread, delving into deep conversation, laughing and loving each other.
These sweet moments living in true community carry us. Knowing we have a place at the table gives us security. It helps us press through difficulties we come up against. I have a solid group of ladies who I know, no matter what, I can reach out to. They are my earthly rock. When I am most shaken, most vulnerable, unable to face life, they are there surrounding me, holding me up, and speaking the most protective truths over me. We gather as we can, and those moments build me up, strengthen me.
This is one of those bittersweet things in life, where you look back on the sweet, sweet times together and mourn the fact that they are no longer there. Life shifts and changes, more good things come, and if we are conscientious about it, we maintain the essence of being with those people even while we are apart. The table will remain, waiting to once again be filled with family and good conversation, that ends in belly laughs and impromptu dance parties. Life is just better when you love people and love them deeply. There is risk, but there is also the greatest reward of having people to share life with.
God, Thank You for the gift of community and being able to live in community with You. Thank You for Your picture of community through Jesus’ life on Earth. Would You grant me deeper community with those who will stand alongside me in my walk with You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.