Monday, September 23, 2013

On Picnicking Together

"Jesus consistently chose unconventional table fellowship as the sign of God's kingdom. And so faced with a crowd of five thousand, he drives home the message he's been preaching - about the spiritual unimportance of religious and social barriers - by inviting everyone to share a meal on the spot. The point is not the food. It is hands-on learning. Do this, Jesus says, and you'll taste what life in the kingdom of God is like. - Jesus Freak, Sara Miles

I'm stuck lately.

On one hand, I want life and time to be slower, quieter, less crowded, more relaxed.
But on the other hand, I just can't get enough of the messy, ridiculous, hilarious, rowdy people around me, the ones who care for and about me, need me, the ones who just let me be. I want every single one of them. (Even on the days I don't think I do, I somehow know I'm wrong.)

While exhausting, this cluttered-up, chaotic life of ours is both highly entertaining and immensely gratifying.

It's a precarious situation for us die-hard introverts here on 5th Street.

My Sunday started off grumpy and selfish. I didn't want plans in the evening. I wanted to hole up with a book and a blanket and shut all the way down.

But we hopped on our bikes with a jar of pickles and a Pyrex dish of corn, and we rode to the neighborhood harvest picnic.

 Of course it was exactly what my soul needed.

We made friends with our neighbors, because that's what happens when people come together with paper plates of pulled pork and pico, store-bought cookies and jugs of tea.

We buzzed around the buffet in our paper name tags, complimenting this dish and that one, asking for the recipe, pointing to the West or the North, I live right over there.

I never had this before, or at least not like this. I used to run from these situations. I decided they were much too awkward. I had better things to do. I didn't see the beauty of picking up my heavy plate and moving one table over, where my neighbor sat, a stranger to me, but not for long.

So on the one hand, I want more days where I just stay home, just us - just us six.
But on the other hand, I can't get enough of breaking bread with my family - all of them, any of them.

Mealtime is becoming a force to be reckoned with around here. We're scheduled out, and it makes me crazy while it makes me sane. The tables change, the menus change, the faces change, but at dinnertime, every one of us is pared down to our basic needs. We need food and we need community. Magic happens when they land together.

We load up a plate and slow way down, long enough to focus on the eyes around us, to pass high praise for the butterscotch cake, to remember one more time that we were meant to be together.

It's almost as if Jesus wanted it this way.

I wonder sometimes if it's really okay. I worry my kids are losing something in the mix, because that's what some would say. We should really slow down. We should stay home more. We should close our doors.

But I think of all we would suffer from that peace. I think about what it would cost us and I'll take healing over solitude any day. We'll always have our hunker-down days. But on all the others, we'll pass the plate, the bread, the complicated Mexican spaghetti, our last jar of beans.

We'll break that bread and decide to keep on keeping each other.

It's the only way that makes sense.