There was nothing magical about it, but everything about it was magical.
I looked out across her yard to behold the simple beauty of one long table decked out in creamy plates and silver forks and crayons and mismatched chairs. There was a place for everyone, and everyone had a place — right there on a patch of Iowa grass.
She’d arranged it a mere 24 hours before the event: “Okay, so here’s something random,” she emailed us. “If you don’t have any Labor Day plans Monday evening, you now have an invite–albeit a late one and one not well thought out–though sincere. ”
She called it “an exercise in spontaneity.”
I call it an invitation to be loved, and to love. It was a trumpeting call to hungry beggars, because sometimes we forget what communion tastes like. We forget the sweetness of the lingering, uncomplicated love song of fellowship.
And so we came. At the curb, we parked our dirty pickup trucks and mini-vans, with their accumulations of shriveled up French fries and soccer cleats.
We brought ripe watermelon cut into triangles and casseroles in soupy Pyrex beds and garden-fresh cucumbers, swimming in milky dressing.
We brought our whole selves — our hang-ups and our habits, our hearts and our hopefulness — finding that we could drop it here, at this table. And at a table among friends with whom you’ve alternately celebrated and grieved, there is a place for all of it.
And this is what it means, I think, to be invited to the table — and also, this is what it means to actually show up. When we linger a while over plates, hands laced up under our chins, we remember how much we need each other.
All of us came hungry, for something enduring that fills. We find it in the listening eyes on the other side of the table.
“Here,” Trish says, holding a cup of crayons. “Write your name on your own place, right above your plate on the cardboard paper.”
I wrote my name in purple. I had a place at the table, and the place knew my name.
The men removed their hats, and the children clasped hands, as Trish prayed a single prayer out of a 60-year-old book.
And in that one holy half-a-minute, we thanked the good Lord for what he’d given us — a magical moment as the sun slid down the western sky.
It wasn’t perfect. There were bugs, and howling children, and spilled lemonade, and overfilled plates where everything ran together.
But it was magical, I tell you. It’s the kind of thing that gives you a glimpse of heaven before you get there, where all the feet are gathered under the table, and you remember that a friend invited you there, and that there’s no one unworthy, no one unloved. No, not one.
It was, indeed, a God-incidence. This I know: not every God-incidence comes with thunder or megaphones or miraculous cures. Some of them do, yes, but not all of them. Often, God-incidences are unfolding right under our feet, right where you are, underneath open skies in the simplest, quietest ways next to an evergreen tree.
I pushed back my chair from the table, to take it all in through the lens of my camera. I clicked:
And in one utterly magical moment, I looked out across an open yard, and realized what a gift it is to know that you’re wanted at a table.
He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love.
~ Song of Solomon 2:4
A song for you, the invited guest: Table of Grace
We write in community every Wednesday about the God-Things that make you go, “Hmmm…”
Some call them coincidences. We call them God-incidences. And those goosebumps you get sometimes when you know the Holy Spirit is at work? Yep. They’re God-Bumps.
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