For Lent I committed to a daily practice of words.
Imagine with me a place. A place of gnawing hunger and thirst. A barren place. A place once not this neglected or abused. A place barren as a result of un-natural use.
Perhaps the barrenness was caused by the left-behind scars of war. Perhaps of famine or storm. Perhaps land exhaustion from greedy industrial farming. But whatever the barren-causing circumstance that comes to your mind, imagine with me a place of deep hunger. A land unable to sustain its own inhabitants.
Living in this barren land are a people. A hungry and starving people. A desperate people. A people whose death is certain without provision of food. They are empty of nutrition and kept alive only by desperate want. The people in this hungry place can’t see the landscape of tomorrow, for today’s needs have overcast the future. They have lost hope and have been left with only blinding desire.
Can you see this empty place? Do you see these precarious people? In your mind’s eye, what are they doing? Perhaps some are sitting still, too weak to move? Some are laying down, already in the position of death. Perhaps others are raging in their want, demanding provision for themselves.
Now imagine with me this…you and I arrive in this place and find ourselves among these people. We are holding strangely shaped pieces of wood. As we pause to wonder it occurs to us that we are holding parts to a table. We begin to assemble the table in the middle of the hungry place. We cover the table with linen, set out plates and silverware, and place cups upright at each place. We are obviously preparing for a meal. And as we set up the table and place the dinnerware, the hungry people begin to gather around.
A crowd gathers at the edge of the preparation. Each one wondering if they might have a place. Some wondering if this is a cruel and manipulative joke. But everyone is wondering and curious about what is being brought into this place.
Some marvel at the extravagance, some weep in anticipating relief, still others begin to count the spaces at the table and look around to begin counting heads in the crowd. “10, 11, 12 …it certainly is a large table, but how many are here again?”
Suddenly, there is a different kind of presence. More than the sight of the table, more than the anticipation of a meal…but suddenly there arrives a smell of food. Someone asks, “What is that delicious smell?” Another responds, “It smells like corn bread and pot roast. Another replies, “no, that is french toast and coffee.” Still another says, “oh no, I’m certain that’s KC BBQ.”
The smell itself hints of the meal yet to come. But one cannot survive on aroma. One cannot live on want alone.
The aroma has certainly drawn even more people around. The crowd has pressed in even further.
There are some who are growingly impatient, who push to the front demanding to know when the meal will begin. There are others who wait at the back of the crowd, unsure if they will even be invited. Others simply wait, trusting the preparation and the aroma…knowing it is a sign of their already-but-not-yet meal.
The table has been set, the aroma of the food has arrived. Everyone is leaning in…waiting for the announcement…wondering what is about to happen.
Now the rest of the story is perhaps the most important…and each have us have already imagined it in some way. In your story, how will this meal now be served?
This is the question we must answer…how with this meal be served I have come to see that my answer to this question tells me much about myself and about how I have chosen to engage the world and understand the calling of God.
So, in your story, how will this meal be served? How do you respond within this barren place and among these desperately hungry people?