Sunday nights are one of my favorite times of the week. We have had small group meeting at our home on Sunday nights for the past two years or longer. I love our small group! It could be any group of people, but we have settled in at the maximum capacity for small groups…..twelve people (just the size of Jesus’ small group)…..there have been a few changes in our make up, but it is a very good variety right now. We have a sampling of older and younger couples, a representative of almost every stage of child rearing, as well as one woman who is married and has never had children. We laugh a lot together, eat together and have become very honest and vulnerable with each other over the past two years. I don’t think this particular group of people would have ever come together in any other venue or would have stuck together as friends if it were not for the small group setting and how it brings people into a wonderful bond with each other. We started out by doing the 40 days of purpose campaign, reading and discussing the book, The Purpose Driven Life. We have since studied books on prayer, Jesus’ life and ministry, a book on Christian apologetics and most recently the Holy Spirit.
The last two chapters in the book on the Holy Spirit were on the fruit of the Spirit and the Spirit as the Comforter. So, being the creative and fun people we are, we decided to have the food themes for these weeks to be fruit night and this past week, comfort foods. I found it interesting when discussing what our favorite comfort foods are *as our ice breaker* what a variety of foods were represented as comforting. Most of the foods brought to the meal were sweets! While I am a sweets eater and I do love desserts, that is not what brings me comfort. When I think of comfort foods, I think of homemade, labor of love types of meals that families would sit down and eat together as an occasion. We’re talking pot roast with homemade rolls, fried chicken and mashed potatoes. And while my husband’s favorites went back to his childhood favorites of southern foods like chicken fried steak, fried okra or pan fried pork chops, you could tell where I grew up by my choices also, like my mom’s homemade chimichangas with homemade guacamole and taco salad or tamale pie. Several people in the generation just above mine in our group recalled loving one of the staples in a modest home life, pinto beans with ham hocks and cornbread. These were usually made with drippings from the ‘fat pot’, a jar or pot kept by the stove, where grease and fat drippings were saved (as well as ‘aged’) and used to add to dishes to give them that special touch. Now, I didn’t grow up in a well to do family or anything, but we didn’t have a fat pot. Thankfully my mother was kind of paranoid about food spoilage and didn’t keep things that weren’t refrigerated and preserved well. We also didn’t have pinto beans much because they reminded my mom of hard times during the depression, eating nothing but beans and cornbread.
Why are those homemade meals were so comforting and remembered with such fondness? I think it was the love that goes into preparing a meal from scratch, of spending time, investing in a project that was soon devoured and gone….yet brought such wonderful feelings to a family. In this generation of fast and convenient packaged and restaurant foods, a good homemade, lovingly prepared meal is a rarity! Since becoming the one who is responsible for my family’s cooking, I really appreciate, more than ever, the effort and care it takes to make a meal from scratch. It takes precious time to prepare a meal like that, just to have it disappear in a matter of minutes, all cut up, pulled apart, spooned out. But what a blessing it is to watch the joy and simple pleasure it gives to a family to sit down to a good meal together, enjoying and talking and knowing someone took time to prepare for you, to nourish you and comfort you.
As I smelled my own crockpot of beans cooking all day Sunday to please our small group, I remembered all the times I walked in on a Sunday afternoon to smell a pot roast cooking or fresh bread baking, or chimichangas frying, knowing someone had been preparing something special for us, thinking of us and going just a bit above and beyond making a regular meal to please us and love us.
Jesus said He is the Bread of Life, He’s the Comforter who sustains us when we’re hanging by a thread to sanity and just keeping it together. The comfort we receive from Him is much more lasting and real than any food every prepared. He is the real deal. And He wants us to enjoy the meat that He has to nourish us instead of the baby milk that just sustains us as Christians. There is a difference between eating to survive and eating to nourish and strengthen us for health. A lot of us Christians are like the starving millions in third world countries, bellies hanging out, full of worms and disease, when the nourishment that can help us become healthy is sitting there on our shelf, untouched or ignored. And we don’t need healthy foods and vitamins once a week or month or year, we need it each day to grow and have health.
We need to ingest for the feast He has for our spiritual life. It’s much more satisfying and comforting, but we settle for the fast and convenient food that we can ‘catch’ by the wayside as we travel through our life as a shallow Christian with our own agenda. And what happens when you eat fast food in a hurry, not taking time to properly digest and chew it well….it doesn’t usually sit right, does it? I personally have seen lots of Christians who take in a Sunday sermon quickly, without chewing on it, digesting it and processing it…and it makes them say, “Bleh, that doesn’t sit right.” God has given us a labor of love, a preparation of treasures and richness for the spirit beyond what the world or our own agenda could ever give us. I think I may be at the point in my spiritual life too where I can more fully appreciate and enjoy the labor of love God’s given us in His Word, like a woman who becomes a mother and can more fully appreciate the labor her mother went through to provide for her family. I can always use some nourishment, comfort and assurance of love, can’t you? =) Take, eat, enjoy and grow. It’s free for the taking….and will set you free as well.