Last week my baby boy somehow, miraculously, turned 6 years old. He is big and strong and tender and generous and asks curious, philosophical questions about life. To celebrate we invited some family and school friends over and I sent my husband to the store to get some chips and cookies. He came back with Doritos and Oreos and so I ripped them open and there they sat in the kitchen. The kids ran like wild, feral animals around the house, in and out.. and in and out…and in and out…through the patio door, but returning over and over again to my Formica counter until their fingers were caked in orange and their lips and teeth were spotted with chocolate crumbs.
We really hadn’t gotten to know the families from Zachary’s kindergarten class very well yet, so I felt nervous inviting them into my home, nervous about making small talk, wondering if we would hit it off and if they would like me (it’s ALWAYS 7th grade in my head!).
I am under no such illusion that I could locate any actual food listed on the ingredient list of these prepackaged snacks if I were to look, but for some reason it felt so good to offer them up, like they were the perfect items to bring people together, both kids and adults.
So incredibly unceremonious.
So very cheap and humble, I hoped everyone would feel welcome and that is hard to accomplish when I am trying to impress.
Chips and cookies: a familiar, common denominator for people of different backgrounds getting to know one another. I could have offered something homemade. I could have upgraded to something without fake cheese and artificial cream filling. I could have made something Pinterest worthy.
But that day I allowed the ministry of Doritos and Oreos to reign as kids ran amok through my home and parents lingered around the dining room table.
And it was good.
A couple days later, after having walked through a couple of the complex places that life has me right now, I found myself with tears streaming from my eyes and a deep, deep ache in my heart. I sat down by myself to think and to feel and, as Sarah Bessey says, to ‘obey the sadness‘.
I told God how I was feeling. I sat silently. And then I got up from my chair, walked to the kitchen and took out three Oreo cookies. I poured myself a small glass of milk and then returned to my seat, dunking each Oreo into the cold milk and then allowing that old familiar flavor to minister once again.
Eating my emotions is never the wise choice, I am well acquainted with this truth. Trust me.
But this wasn’t emotional eating in the same sense. I mean, yes, I was emotional. I was sitting in some very real heart ache that has been a constant companion for some time and I just sensed that God wanted to sit beside me, like a mommy whose child has come home from a hard day at school. He passes a plate of cookies to me and whole milk straight from the fridge, and just sits in the sadness with me. Listening, nodding along with empathy and compassion.
Not to numb myself from the pain, or solve the pain, or turn to chocolate instead of to Him. But because He created me to taste, to chew, to crave, to eat. He created me to feel comfort and nostalgia and to eat and drink and savor and enjoy. He made food for me, he didn’t make me for food. So I took the food that was on hand, some left over Oreo cookies, and ate them one by one. Enjoying the crunch, the cream, the sweetness as a ministry from the Holy Spirit.
Through the Gospels so many of the miracles and stories of Jesus center around mealtimes. A banquet, a wedding, a Passover feast, fish and loaves on the hillside, at the dining room tables of Pharisees and sinners alike.
And my favorite, when Jesus prepares a breakfast of fresh fish on the shore of the Sea of Galilee for some disciples who have just experienced grief, sorrow, regret and confusion.
I am among them.
The Lord ministers through food, around food, with food. Salty, smokey fresh fish over an open fire. Or prepackaged cookies from a supermarket. As our tongues taste and bellies are filled and senses aroused our Jesus meets us. He doesn’t shun food or forbid food or ask us to forsake food, he uses food. This is, after all, the man who said He is Bread and He is wine. Not to numb our pain or eat or emotions, but because God ministers through the things of the Earth He created, the things I can taste and smell and touch and see. That which ministers to my body somehow ministers to my Spirit.
“There, there now” He says to me. “Take and eat and remember me. I am here with you and have not left your side. Have another cookie and tell me all about it.”