When He had reclined at the table with them, He took the bread and blessed it, and breaking it, He began giving it to them.
The unthinkable had happened.
Many years ago, the life of a young twenties friend of ours had suddenly ended. This precious girl had been the apple of her mother's eye. And in one day, she was gone. I couldn't imagine the darkness I would feel if it had happened to one of my own precious girls. And I knew that if it happened to me, there would be a hole in my heart forever and ever.
Though I did not know what to do, I prayed about what had been important to my friend. I knew there would be no perfect soothing or words of comfort that would satisfy, no answers to the unbelievable hurt she would experience deep in her heart.
People who have broken hearts shouldn't be alone, even if they seem withdrawn. They need to have someone initiate with ready arms to comfort and a heart of grace and compassion, willing to grieve and love unconditionally whatever the moments hold.
As I prayed, God brought to mind that she had spent a considerable time in England. She loved tea and tea times. And so I invited her to my table, to share moments of friendship together, to give her a refuge in my home, a place to pour out her feelings, a place to be loved, accepted. My table would become a sanctuary, a refuge from the onslaught of her life.
I did not know what words I would speak as words would not take away the hurt that we shared in that moment, but I offered her all that I knew how. I offered myself and my time. And as we were sitting together, tears coming, overflowing from both of us, a picture came into my mind.
Jesus was bent on the dusty floor, gently washing His disciples feet, loving them with all of his heart. And then, he served them a meal and fed their needs, body, spirit, and soul. He knew their hearts would soon break, that they would feel hopeless, helpless, alone.
And it was in this context of him inviting his "beloveds" to his table that he showed them the grace of gentle Father love. His words were there to soothe and comfort. In the context of preparing, washing, serving, encouraging, He gave his final lessons of life.
So many times in my own life, with my loneliness in ministry, my struggles with my "different" children, my broken heart from wounds, fears, doubts or insecurities, I wanted someone to see me, to ask, to initiate, to care. But often, my deep darkness was born alone. Often people are afraid to enter grief because they do not know what to say, so they say nothing, do nothing.
Healing comes slowly, but all of us were made for companionship, in celebrating and in suffering. "Bear one another's burdens," we are told. Joining in another's suffering requires us to reach out when another may be too weary to ask.
As my friend and I sat together in silence, I pondered more deeply the table of Christ. Every week in church, we come to the table of Christ. As we enter into the table of His grace with Him, he responds to all of our needs personally. He knows and understands every burden we carry, every issue in our lives, all the ways we have failed, our heart scars, our fears. In that table, He makes us whole and brings us life, forgiveness, hope and healing.
It is Jesus who prays for us before the Father every day, (Hebrews 7:25). His love for us never ends, (Romans 8) and He lives to comfort us through His spirit. He is the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles. (2 Corinthians 1:4)
And even as He brought life and love to His table, so He will invite us to His feast to spend eternity with Him in fullness of joy.
May our tables become as His, a sacred place where life is protected, love is given and comfort is felt. Our tables have the power to offer the "Life" we have felt from His personal, generous grace. May our tables be the place His love is felt and known until we see Him face to face at the table He has prepared for us in eternity.
Is there someone who needs to have an invitation to your table to find compassion, comfort, companionship? Make this time as the holidays approach one where your table extends the invitation of His grace to those who long to be invited.
Become the hands of Christ, the words of His spirit, the light of His grace as you see the needs of others and become what He became to us.