My deepest wish for the ones who have lost everything is that I could give them what I had when I was five years old, sitting on the back bench of a farmhouse kitchen eating “dippy” eggs and toast from fresh wheat bread. We used to ground the wheat berries fresh and mix the bread dough with that warm flour. The loaves would sit beautifully on the blue countertop and we cut off hunks and drenched them in butter and honey.
My childhood is like one long summer sunshine of memory. I’ve reached the real world that I longed for so much on that Michigan farm as I paced under the full moon in the back yard, restless with the longing to go and feel the world.
I didn’t know how bad it was out here.
I used to run the fields picking buttercups, and stain my feet behind a push mower. We spent hours planting small seeds and tending them as they pushed up above the soil. We filled bowls with strawberries and snapped green beans for hours under the maple tree, and cracked open watermelons that were sweet and warm from the summer sun.
I don’t know if life can get any better then that. It feels like a dim dream in my memory that I was once so carefree my greatest concern was to have tough callouses to run over gravel or that I always had the last turn in a water battle.
We fell asleep beside a fresh country breeze through an open window and never locked the house doors. We woke to the smell of eggs or pancakes and slid into our place on the back bench at 6:30 am. I had a place on that bench, even though I was one of ten children. I belonged around that table, even with my spitfire tongue and restless heart. And even when life happened and I went off to see the world as it really is, I always came home.
I’ve seen really bad things out here.
You don’t hold the form of an emaciated preemie baby, entirely unwanted by his Mother and stay the same. You don’t look into the face of drug addicts and traffickers, women working prostitution and smugglers, and stay the same. You don’t stare raw evil in the face over and over again, and stay the same. You don’t face the reality of rejection and grief and the personal sorrows all of us know and stay unmarred.
It changes you.
You know what it feels like when your childhood utopia bubble suddenly burst into the raw reality of an evil world? If you don’t you will soon because that’s just the nature of the world we live in. Since I’ve seen it first I have been on a quest to learn to navigate the real realities of the gospel I believed in and the church that I saw.
Evil can catch us off guard sometimes and make us question everything about the world. To be honest I think it catches most of us off guard and the majority of the world is questioning everything about their existence. A restless passion pushes us to engage with evil to bring something better. It feels nice to have the idea that we can be part of saving what has gone wrong. So we engage, and wrestle magnificently sometimes, and get an E for effort.
I wonder what would happen if we stopped investing trillions of dollars into trying to create programs to fix people and started inviting the broken around our dinner table.
Most of them have never had a place there.
It feels good to be the answer for someone’s crisis, but that never lasts long. You can fight until you’re dead to change the fact that evil touches innocence every day, and evil will still touch innocence every day. Our day of redemption hasn’t come yet, and we are so intent on curbing the evil that we’ve forgotten the God who overcomes evil.
“I go to prepare a place for you.”
That’s what Jesus said when he left them all standing there.
“In this world you will have tribulation, but take heart I’ve overcome the world.”
I’m sure Jesus knew all the beatings and shipwrecks and beheadings they were going to face, and He still just told them He had already overcome it. I’m sure He still knows all the pain and suffering we are facing, and He still says today, “Take heart, I’m coming.”
My friend says with tears streaming that if not one country here on this earth will give her a place, she just wants to go to heaven and find her place. We hold onto each other in our tears, because we both know we have an eternal place somewhere far from all of this. I set the table in the evening hours as the pots simmer on the stove, and light the candles. I’ve been roasting two hens golden in the oven, and teaching the little girl how to place the napkins around the plates.
She knows her place beside me on the bench.
When I’m lonely and tired, I often want to run back to the life I once knew, where evil was distant and goodness the center. I would love to just go sit on the arm of my Dad’s sagging blue recliner, and listen to him read out of the worn pages of his bible. I can feel my fingers running over the bubbled leather cover. I wish I could sit on that long pine bench again, and eat Mom’s comforting chicken pie with fresh ground pepper. I wish I could hear us all singing as we sat around the living room…
“Gracious spirit, Holy Ghost, taught by Thee we covet most, of thy gifts at Pentecost, holy heavenly love. Love is kind and suffers long, Love is meek and thinks no wrong, Love in death it’s self more strong. Therefore give us love.” Christopher Woodsworth
Some of us are so intent on finding the perfect place here below we’ve forgotten that He has gone ahead to prepare a place for us. Some of us are so determined to keep our place we can’t give any space to others. Some of us are so concerned with refining our programs and schedules we’ve forgotten the power of frying “dippy” eggs every morning like my own Mother and serving love around a table rich with belonging.
You know why Jesus “sat and supped” with his followers? He gave them a place with Him, and went ahead to prepare an eternal place for them. Then he left us to sit and eat with the strangers and sinners so we could emulate His Father heart for the suffering and ultimately guide them towards their eternal home.
We prepare a place around our tables, because He first prepared a place for us. Our benches are empty because we’ve forgotten how to move over and invite in. The reason the bible says love is the greatest is that we can go out and start projects and throw goods at needy people and not comfort anyone but ourselves. But only love invites the stranger to sit with us and be one of us.
Only love creates a home, and invites the sufferer to find their place.
“Therefore, give us love.”
Photo by Dailycuppajo