Last night, I had dinner with a friend I hadn't seen for a while. The meal was nothing spectacular, although it was one of my favorites. We are nearing the end of a media series with my youth group, and he had come to share about his visual media company with my students. After group, we crossed the road and went to a great local restaurant. We ate and talked about our lives.
On the drive home, I got to thinking about what sharing a meal with someone means.
It's hard to dislike someone when you eat with them, especially if the food is inviting. We ate Mexican food last night. My friend commented on something we both enjoy about this type of dining- the chips and salsa. When you share food like that, more family style, it's extremely hard to dislike someone. The only way I could fake that is by not eating the chips and salsa. We ate guacamole too. If I'm thinking about things I don't like about someone, I am not going to enjoy my meal, and I am certainly not going to share food with them.
If you have ever been on an awkward date, you know exactly what I am talking about. If things start to go smoothly, you may choose to share the chips or other appetizer with the person. As long as you feel weird about the other person, you avoid those things like the plague.
Conversation is a natural part of eating. I realize some people like to rush through their food, and I have been known to eat a whole pizza in five minutes. However, when you sit down at a table with someone, order your food, and wait for it to arrive, you are forced to talk with the other person. Listening and asking questions is essential at this point. Otherwise, your conversations become one sided or pointless.
Fortunately, I enjoy hanging out with my friend. He's a great guy. This just made the meal that much more enjoyable.
Reflecting on it though, I did wonder how much harder it would be to have division, strife, jealousy, and envy within the church if people were to eat together.
I think two major things would be necessary to build community for the church during meals.
First, meals need to be consistently and consciously slow. Slow eating is all about enjoying the company and enjoying the food, not rushing through. Conversation naturally flows out of the relaxed atmosphere of a slow meal.
Second, we would have to get out of our regular patterns of who we acquaint ourselves with in our seating patterns. We'd have to get out of the comfort zone and be willing to put ourselves in vulnerable places, at least at first. I think community would be a natural outcome after a while, but we would have to really practice listening and sharing.
Maybe I am just crazy about food, but then again, the church did use to share meals together. Sometimes it created problems, but other times it did seem to really foster community. Wouldn't it be great to find more ways to foster community in the church?
Maybe I am just crazy.