There are websites for just about everything, and the meal sign-up link was easy to click on. The page was straight forward to fill in, but the spaces on my screen were mostly blank. This was also the case the last few times I clicked on a meal sign-up page. One time I had commitments three nights in a row, and another time it was a holiday weekend. That poor family had just faced tragedy before a busy weekend. It seemed the simple blessings of friends would be more scant for them.
The prospect did a flip in my mind. The potential burden became a potential opportunity.
Way back, as the microwave ran non-stop, reheating meals offered for both sustenance and encouragement, our family felt like it had traveled from home to home, tasting a bit of each family’s culinary culture. But we didn’t have to drive anywhere. It was awesome. That church had hospitality down, rising to the occasion, taking care of its own. I’m sure that Jesus was whispering “Yes!” into each person’s ear as he or she sautéed onions on our behalf. Meals mattered in the Kingdom of Heaven, especially when given as gifts of love.
Yes, I signed up. I shopped, I cooked and I delivered. I was greeted with more gratitude than I had probably shown years ago. I had taken my windfall for granted. I was unwell and scared, but God’s people loved us through it. This family did not take even the mini corn muffins for granted. “I’m in debt forever to the meal-making ministry,” I said, then told our story.
The time was the biggest gift.
Not too long after, another email popped up with another opportunity. I was part of several groups that cared for one another in this way. “You’ve got to be kidding me, God.” I knew I was obliged. I had seen the value in such an endeavor. It had been accentuated, in full color, as little children had zealously peeked under the aluminum foil to see what was below. Still, I was very busy.
Tragedy doesn’t respect schedules. It seemed these things always came up at a busy time! Like now. My bad attitude heaped on top of my full calendar. I sighed. How could I do this? Deep down, I suspected it was a test, not of duty, but of compassion. Remembering our full fridge (and freezer), years ago, I relented. I signed up and shopped, doubling up to make a huge meal to split between two families: theirs and ours. As a bonus, my family’s meal would be upgraded to match theirs. No one here would complain.
The next morning, another meal request was buried in my emails. This was unusual. Months sometimes passed between these requests. Well, I was off the hook, with plans to cook all morning. I couldn’t do more. I was doing something already. But there was no sense of relief. I sipped my coffee. I had bought a lot of chicken, I remembered. Could I make it work for 3 family meals? I did a loaves and fishes prayer. Then I cooked, adding to and modifying the menu. It worked. All three families ate the same meal that night.
There are some traditions that mustn’t be allowed to fade away.
Probably the social media posts I didn’t have time to read since that morning won’t matter much in the end. We didn’t watch an hour show online that night, either. I was unloading the dishwasher of all of my larger cooking bowls and utensils. My other errands were briefer than they would have been, but it didn’t matter. I did have time, I found out. The Holy Spirit’s promptings took precedent. I’m seeing that I’m not obliged to my calendar.
I don’t feel like I rose to an occasion. I do feel like I was lifted up to one.
God helped me make time. He cared more for two families that needed a little encouragement than He cared about my obligations, that weren’t really true obligations, after all. Sometimes we need to refuse to take the path of least resistance. The compassionate path is oftentimes not convenient. But The Kingdom of God isn’t about convenience. It’s about love.
“Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another.”