Meditations on Food

For the past few weeks, every time I have something to say in youth group, it seems to relate to food. I love food. Food is glorious. Every step in the process of preparing a meal is beautiful. Except maybe the dishes afterwards, but that’s because it does not relate directly to food.

But yes, musings on food. I’ve been living in apartments for the past year and a half, which means I no longer eat in the school cafeteria. Nor do I have my parents around to do the cooking. So I have learned to shop, organize, and cook. Perhaps not very well, but adequately. Every shopping trip is beautiful. Firstly, we go as a family – all 3 or 4 or 5 of us college girls (and sometimes boys). It’s awesome to just hang out with close friends.

The bill at the end of the trip is usually quite terrifying – how on earth do we spend so very much?? But it’s also comforting. Every item on that bill, every item filling our overflowing shopping cart, is good. Our shopping cart is overflowing with goodness: fresh vegetables of a great variety, good meat, fruits (the special treat we give ourselves every shopping trip), sometimes we get salmon for the evening (my favorite meal), lots of milk and lots of eggs, bread. The least healthy item on the list is usually cold cereal, or crackers. Sometimes peanut butter, when we run out. At the end of the shopping trip, when we are loading the trunk of the car with all the goodies, we can’t help but feel a little proud of ourselves: look at us, we’re all grown up!

It’s beautiful. Yes, the bill is a little high (we are stocking up for two weeks, at least). But it is such a wonderful blessing! In this time, this place, God has provided that we are together – it is so beautiful to be able to live with such very close friends. In this time, and this place, God has provided us the money to buy good food. Good food isn’t cheap, and we are provided with such an overflowing abundance of it! We eat well. We dine like kings. Good, solid food is such a great, great blessing. And we are blessed to be reminded of it every other week, on our glorious shopping trips, where we chart out a beautiful future (of two weeks) filled with good food our God has filled this earth with.

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And then there’s the fellowship. Not just the 3 or 4 of us who happen to live together (or practically live together). Once or twice a week, we have friends show up, inviting themselves over for dinner. Our doors are always open, and I do usually try to feed you if you walk through around dinner time… though sometimes I let laziness take over… We’re rather proud of the fact that our door is always open, and that friends know they are always, always welcome. That is not to say I will entertain you with the best of my hostess abilities. Most of us are introverts, so while friends showing up randomly throughout the day might mean a loud, rowdy hour of good fun, it more often means an afternoon at our respective computers or books, doing our respective school work, collectively, in one shared space, which is just as beautiful.

Ah, but I was ranting about food. Once or twice a week, we have friends over for dinner. If I happen to cook, I may be cooking for as few as 3 people (the normal day), to as many as 17 people. (I think 17 is the record this semester. Last semester we made it to 21.) But food facilitates the best fellowship. I am excited about graduating from college, moving out, having my own apartment, and inviting people over. I am an introvert, so I do not necessarily know how to entertain people. My idea of entertainment is to feed people. I like feeding people. It is immensely satisfying feeding people. It is beautiful to be sprawled out across the apartment with a dozen friends, just eating and chatting. Food is the universal method of fellowship. It can be anything from a sandwiched shared on the lawn, to a lavish wedding banquet. In my house it will generally be rice, stir-fry, and pumpkin pies when in season.

When I can’t think up an excuse to hang out with friends (with the hectic schedules of college life, one almost does need an actual excuse to hang out), I invite them for dinner. No one turns down free food at college. Dinner always succeeds in summoning my loved ones from all corners of the campus, and we have a beautiful time together, eating the good food God has so graciously provided for us.

The Burden of an Outsider

A member of my family was invited to speak at a small Chinese church once, kind of as “the outside expert.” It was an evening fellowship, which our entire family attended. After the service, we were approached by the pastor and a member of the church. The pastor encouraged this member (let me call him Victor) to talk to us, and let us pray for him. I instinctively knew that this was more than just wanting to talk to the foreigners, but I was not ready for what followed.

Victor had a drug problem. He had sworn off drugs, and has managed to stay off. But it still torments him. He stays up entire nights, hating himself for what he has done. He goes through the day shaky from exhaustion. He can’t help but think about drugs. “Just seeing your water bottle,” he told us, pointing at the water bottle from which my mother took a sip, “it reminds me of the old days, and I want to take it again.” And then he hates himself again for such thoughts. And then, at night he can’t sleep, tormented by the desire for drugs, the dread of the future, the horrors of the past.

Victor spilled his guts to us. Because we were the outsiders. We came as figures of some authority to this church. We could be trusted. Part of it was that we were outside his world, and we were unable to hurt him or judge him as his family or friends might. But part of it was also, being outsiders, it was almost as if we carried greater spiritual weight.

We listened to Victor spill his guts, telling us his darkest fears and tortures he kept even from his wife. We offered what little comfort or consul we could, knowing also that he’s heard it all before. But somehow, it still seemed to bring a little comfort. We then laid our hands on him and prayed for him. It was a more sincere and desperate prayer than I’ve prayed in a long time. At the end of the prayer, Victor looked tired, but well, like after a battle well fought.

That night, I suddenly realized a little of what it meant to be a missionary. Or even just the outsider Christian. I am young. I don’t know my Bible half as well as a whole lot of people in that church. I am not as mature as I would like. I know too little of the world. I have no idea what kind of advice to give. I am young, so young in the eyes of so many. But it does not matter. I am the outsider, which can carry a lot of weight I am not worthy of. Simply by being the outsider, I will have people approach me with heavier burdens than I could dream of. Hoping to serve in a land in which I hardly belong, I will be granted to look deeper into many hearts than most family and friends. It is a terrifying thought. A sobering thought. By God’s grace, I pray that I will be able to fill these shoes far too big for me. Only by God’s grace, would I be able to extend healing in places of hurt. I myself, I know, am too weak, too immature, too self-centered to touch another’s soul.

Pray for Victor. And pray for each of us, still young, but called by God to do great things beyond our wildest dreams. I know too well how ill prepared I am. But by God’s grace, we might not make too great a mess of things.

A summery of the trip

I’m back from a wondrous trip. A few things I accomplished a learned between 20 days and 30 historical sites: 

1. I have decided to get my ears pierced. 

2. I went to a bar. 0.o Perhaps more on that another day.

3. I cannot live without Greek coffee. 

4. I have learned that it is okay to be a tourist. 

5. I watched Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night in an all male cast at a London theatre. :D

6. Once someone has traveled, has seen another piece of the beautiful world, has wandered lost in a foreign city and been surrounded by a foreign language, one cannot stop. 

7. However, I have also learned that backpacking is not for me, as fun as that would be. 

8. I have learned that God speaks to each of us in slightly a different way, and that’s okay. (Perhaps more on this later also) 

9. I have made a good friend, one with whom I could talk of life, death, marriage, God, fears, hobbits, Greek coffee, cathedrals, religion, stray dogs, and everything else beneath the stars. 

(: