I bolted up the stairs, heart racing in response to my husband’s call. He was the calm one, the unflappable med student; that level of urgency in his voice froze my blood. Bursting into the bathroom, I saw. Our one-year-old son, his eyes and lips swollen, his perfect round baby belly splotchy with an ugly red rash. My husband, already on the phone with the pediatrician, asking, “Do we give Benadryl, or bring him into the ER for Epinephrine?”
Our life changed that moment.
In a span of minutes, from when we gave our baby a taste of what we were sure would be his new favorite food to when his body rebelled, we were living in a different world. A more hostile world. Someone described the mental shift to me as though the color orange could send your child to the hospital: suddenly you notice it everywhere. Going to the grocery store became for me something akin to walking a beach strewn with mines. I called my best friend, sobbing, the day I picked up my son’s Epipen, our new constant companion. Phone, wallet, keys, Epi. I raged against God, my fear and anger battling themselves into weariness as I threw out our giant jar of peanut butter and washed my hands over and over, dreading every holiday and birthday party in the future. The intensity of the world’s fallenness landed on my fragile heart that season, when I learned that this good created thing, the humble peanut, could strip my tiny son of his life.
It rocked me. The good became not good.
Almost eight years have passed since that evening, and we have, counter to all my original and persistent fears, been more than okay. His allergy is, of course, only a small limitation on his otherwise healthy body. I have learned to relax my hold some, for he is not all mine. He is his own, hid dad’s, his friends’, and ultimately, his Father’s. And there is a lot of wonderful life to live outside the realm of peanut butter.
Every Sunday, gathered with our small and beloved church family, we hear the words of Paul, and of Jesus: On the night Jesus was betrayed, he took the bread; and giving thanks, he broke it saying, “This is my body, broken for you. Take and eat, in remembrance of me.” We rise and walk forward, holding out our hands to receive the sweet loaf. We eat together, heads bowed in prayer. Some weeks I have a flash of worry about the bread, wondering if something has changed about its bakery production lines. Other times I eat in trust.
In those moments, when anxiety creeps into the mystery of communion, there is an ache deep in my gut. I think, One day, we will gather around the table, and I won’t have to wonder about what is offered. Jude can eat anything he wants, without questioning. The table is, for many on this broken Earth, a place of struggle. The gift of food itself, in all its savory, salty, sweet wonder, is for many a source of sin or brokenness or fear or lack. The good has become not good, and we suffer for it. The wrong meal in Eden has polluted every meal since, and though we look to redemption, the shadows still lurk.
But the table is being redeemed. Gathering weekly around the bread and wine is one way we proclaim Christ’s upside down kingdom, eating and drinking together in remembrance and faith. Our own tables, too, are called to action: to the opening of our homes, hearts, and pantries to friends new and old, to family, and to the stranger in our midst. As Doug McKelvey writes in Every Moment Holy, these table gatherings are a declaration that “evil and death, suffering and loss, sorrow and tears, will not have the final word.”
The wrong meal in Eden has polluted every meal since, and though we look to redemption, the shadows still lurk. Millie Sweeny
My friend and pastor, Greg, often says the dining room table is the most evangelistic piece of furniture in your house. Years of lingering for hours around such hospitable tables (including his) have shown me the truth of this, and gospel grace in abundance. These tables, where Christ is present in laughter and friendship, give to all equal seating, equal place, equal share. For my family, this has meant others graciously ensure the food is safe for my son. To others, this means something different, as it did for the first century Christians when Jews ate alongside Gentiles, slaves alongside masters. Whether guests are vegan, avoid gluten, or struggle to eat one-handed around a wiggling baby, the table is a place to come alongside one another in the truest sense. Jesus’ ministry was, in Greg’s words, “a roving dinner party,” where Pharisees and prostitutes both shared in the company of the Messiah.
When all things are made new, and we gather together around the wedding feast of that same Jesus, we will eat in pure joy and celebration. The bread will be sweet, and free of nutritional labels. No one will pass it by in fear of gaining weight, or stuff it down to purge later. No one will stuff their pockets against the next day’s hunger. Wine will be poured freely, but no one will drink to forget. I long for this. The days my son comes home from school frustrated he missed out on a treat, the longing becomes an ache. When dinner conversations are strained, when a friend’s addiction to alcohol causes ripples of hurt, when parents must monitor the bathroom after their daughter eats, when death robs kitchens and tables of cooks and guests, making them into reminders of loss—our hearts ache with hunger, for a better meal and a better Host.
And He is preparing it, even now. There might even be peanut butter.