Gathered Around the Table

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. – Matthew 5:6

There is something holy about gathering around a table with the ones you love. It is there—around the table—that we look each other full in the face, accepting all of the mess that life with others may bring, bearing together the weight of the day. It is there that we share meals, nourishing our bodies with the carefully crafted food created and served in love. The table is a place for stories told, encouragement given, thanks expressed. And it is at the table where we cease our toil, cast off concerns, abandon false facades, and step into our truest selves. We simply come as we are to be filled. The table is a sacred space, indeed.

 Testimony Retreat, September 2015. 

Testimony Retreat, September 2015. 

Bonding through breaking bread together is my favorite component of the Fellows program, specifically during a weekly time called “Roundtable.” It is a couple of hours at the start of the week during which we cook, dine, worship, and pray together as a community of brothers and sisters. It is a place to reconnect after a Monday in the marketplace, to find a sliver of rest in the busyness of our schedules, and to recount all the many ways God has shown up in our lives recently. We demonstrate hospitality, grace, and a whole lot of love to one another, leaving us with both full bellies and full hearts by the end of the night.

It is around the table that I am most clearly reminded of why I moved to Charlottesville in the first place—to dwell with God in the context of community. It might be the meal itself that leads us to sit and dine together, but what causes us to return excitedly each week is the doling out of grace when it is needed, the displays of kindness, the meaningful conversations, and the shared desire to enter into each other’s mess and choose to love each other in spite of it. I believe a connection exists between the physical and the spiritual; something as seemingly mundane as slurping soup around the dining room table unites us as a family under one good, good Father—a Father who gently beckons us to draw near with absolutely nothing to offer but our own messed-up selves. And so we are moved to present the same gift to our worn-out and broken-down peers by creating a safe space to simply “be,” safe from the striving and insecurity so frequently elicited by the world. We give grace freely. We embrace and break bread and remember why we do so—because we have first received a grace from the Lord that compels us. 

This is the Gospel: that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. That we are so loved that the Son of Man was pleased to lay down His life so that we might have it abundantly, eternally. A passage in Matthew 11 recounts the compassionate call of Jesus: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Like little children who depend on their parents for every need, those who pursue Jesus approach the throne with confidence not in their own strength, but based on the sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice. After all, nothing can separate us from His love; He has made a way for us to approach the table of God, to share in His sufferings and simply come to find the deep soul rest for which we long.

This thought is what comes to mind when I consider the not-so-obvious purpose behind our weekly Fellows meal. I believe we can emulate Christ by receiving each other with open arms and a warm plate of cheesy casserole. I view this act of sitting alongside our fellow Fellows as a reflection of the freely given acceptance and love that covers a multitude of sins. By fixing our eyes on the example set by Jesus, someone who allows us—even commands us—to humbly stand before the communion table and remember His body sacrificed and blood shed, we are asked to extend the same grace to our neighbor. We too can invite those who labor and are heavy laden to come and find rest in the peaceful yoke of Christ that we have the ability to embody. To do as Jesus does—to fill the spent and broken with reassurance and fullness—is a beautiful blessing that we have the privilege of bestowing upon others. When a ritual as everyday as gathering together around the table takes place in the name of God, it will be filled with the surpassing peace, presence, and fellowship of Christ—the things for which we truly hunger. 

Taylor supplemented her academic life by conducting research on adult ADHD, serving at a local non-profit as a tutor for high-risk teens, and participating in a university-led service trip to an impoverished school in Nicaragua. These experiences strengthened her passion for providing support for youth struggling with mental health and behavioral problems. Her undergraduate studies focused on psychology and social work, and she hopes to attend graduate school to pursue a master’s in counseling psychology.