By Allison Myers
“…they broke [tortillas] in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts…” -Acts 2:46
There’s just something about gathering around the table with people you care about that builds a unique bond. Tonight, I gathered around the table with some folks from my young adult group. They invited us into their home and fed us and invested in our lives in the simplest, most organic, but impactful way. I think one of the best ways to love people is to feed them.
Around this time last year, my roommate and I befriended some Mormon missionaries. I was taking a shortcut on the way home one day and ran into them in an alley (still not sure why they were there) but they asked if they could come by the house sometime. It was my birthday, and I was feeling extra loved and chipper that day so I said that of course they could. I also thought that there was a good chance that as Mormon missionaries, they would run into some really rude people, and I didn’t want to be one of them. We exchanged semi-awkward introductions and I proceeded to take the little postcard picture of Jesus that they offered me, as well as a couple of cards with their phone numbers and a copy of the Book of Mormon. I got home and quickly tucked the items away somewhere to collect dust. I thought briefly about the girls and how I would probably never see them again, but I was glad to run into some kind folks on my birthday.
A few days later, they showed up at our door. I still don’t think that I actually ever gave them our address and concluded that they must’ve knocked on several doors in order to finally find ours. Tenacity (something I genuinely admire Mormons for) at its finest and truest. There it was. It was time to decide. Was I going to open up the door and let them in and hear their spiel, or brush them off and tell them I didn’t have time?
I’ve never been good at turning people away.
We sat and listened to their teachings and heard a whole lot about what they think about the Bible, God, Jesus, and this guy named Joseph Smith. After that, we talked for a long time about what I think about the Bible, God, Jesus, and this guy named Joseph Smith. Throughout our time together that day I was a strange combination of offended, confused and surprised, and at the end of the conversation I had to make a quick decision: Because I disagreed with these people, should this be it? Should we call it quits right here? I didn’t have much of an interest in creating a relationship with these girls. After all, there’s really no way to truly be friends with people who think differently than you. It’s too difficult and there are too many opportunities to hurt feelings and step on toes and to be challenged in your own views. No one really wants that, so let’s just cut it off right here. That’s what I decided.
But then I reconsidered.
Because I don’t think that’s what Jesus would do. I think He would lean in. I think He would lean in to the questions and the difficulties and the conflict. I think He would forego sarcasm and sass and rudeness and I think He’d have raw conversation. I think He’d see a couple of people on the couch across from Him, who were trying to live out their own convictions in the best and most loving way that they knew how.
So I invited them over again. And we fed them. And we continued to do that about twice a week for the rest of the semester. We continued our hard conversations over sweet tea and tacos, and for some reason, that changed everything. I learned about their families and their hobbies and their hometowns. I learned about their dreams and aspirations and why we all have a love/hate relationship with Pinterest. It’s almost like we became friends or something.
I don’t think it was a coincidence that Jesus was often eating with people when teaching and ministering to them. In Luke, Jesus is basically always eating – so much so that He was accused of being “a glutton and a drunkard” by His critics. Meals were a recurring theme, and seemed to be central to His mission. I think that was an example set for us to follow. When we eat together, we’re sitting in our humanity, we’re admitting our dependence and we’re accepting a unique form of grace from God. In the simplest way, similar to sleeping, we’re acknowledging that we have physical, external needs that cannot be fulfilled from within ourselves. Our humanness is on display.
If you’re looking to build a deeper, more intimate community with people in your circle, I say, start by breaking bread (or tortillas) together. You don’t have to be a professional chef. It doesn’t have to be a five-course, five-star event. You don’t have to have a big, fancy house or an opulent kitchen with a gourmet, organic, free-range menu. You can break out the paper plates and the store-bought cookies. You can gather your people in your tiny IKEA-furnished apartment, butts on barstools and kitchen counters and living room floors. You can stop worrying about your less-than-eloquent prayers and remember that God prefers our feeble, authentic attempts and that He delights in drenching us in grace. So do it. Gather your home team, laugh, share, and embrace your humanity together knowing that God often does some of His best work over fajitas and Dr Pepper.