The Art of Gathering

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The importance of meals goes beyond the basic function of nourishing our bodies. Meals can build community, foster relationships, and develop routine rest. For some of us, sitting down to a meal is the only time of day when we actually sit down. We’re forced to take an intentional break from moving. It may be the only time of the day when individuals gather together at the same place at the same time to enjoy something they have in common: the food they’re all eating together. Gathering for a meal opens opportunity to talk and have relationship.

Most socializing happens around the table. Couples go out to eat when they’re dating. Families invite others over for a meal to get to know them better. Churches host bar-b-qs and potlucks to unify the congregation. Celebrations always include cake. Even Jesus used meal time to display his power (the miracle of the fives loaves and two fishes) or to have sacred conversations with his friends (the last supper) or to celebrate His victory over death (breakfast on the beach).

It’s so easy to slip into the drudgery of daily meal-making. In rough seasons of being pregnant or having a newborn or having a husband work late, it can seem like a miracle just to keep my children fed! I get burned out, I get frustrated by my picky-eaters, I dread the dinner hour, and I get too tired to clean up after.

But when I shift my perspective of meal time from it just being a chore I have to do to keep my family alive to the perspective that meal time is an opportunity to sit down, talk with my family, and build our little community, the drudgery starts to evaporate. I remind myself not to gauge the success of a meal on whether their plates were licked clean, but rather on the laughter and conversations that happened as we all sat down at the same time together.

It’s not the recipe that makes the meal time great–it’s the gathering that meal time creates.

The chore I dreaded for so long, I have come to find out is actually a gift…It will never be the dinner itself that makes it matter. It’s that beautiful thing that happens when everyone lingers at the table even though the meal is over.–Joanna Gaines