No formal dinners in our house for the next two weeks! Announced our resident Martha Stewart after we dropped my husband off at the airport for his two-week long trip overseas.
I didn’t realize we EVER have ‘formal’ dinners, I was confused. Except, maybe for Christmas or Thanksgiving…
You know what I mean – the sitting down at the dining room table, the tablecloth, the settings. The whole big thing at the end of the day. For next two weeks, we eat casually at the kitchen counter. Until Daddy comes back…
And so the decision was made. Day in, day out. We still kept majority of our schedule intact. The violin practices. The chores. The homework. The bed-time routine. The good-night kiss. But, instead of the-end-of-the-day-meal being a type of feast, a celebration of family re-gathering after a day of work and school, we kept it simple and quite utilitarian. For we still have to eat. And we continued to eat pretty much the same things we normally eat – chicken and potatoes, soup and salad, pizza and mac’n’cheese, and all that in ample quantities.
But the meal-times, despite their ample provisions, became marked by Absence. And even though our tummies were full, and all the nutrition was working its way through our bodies, something was missing. Because someone was missing. And life, even though it continued in its manifestations pretty much the same as it always does, felt incomplete. Felt empty.
Jesus and his disciples were much better known for their attendance at the parties and celebrations than prayer-and-fasting meetings. Their apparent lack of discipline and restraint must have grated on the religious sensibilities of many, for eventually somebody gathered up enough courage to call Jesus on the carpet. Jesus’ answer to them was
The attendants of the bridegroom cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them, can they? But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast. Matthew 9:15
There are days when the Bridegroom is with us and life feels like a never-ending party. The table is bending under the weight of food, the dishes are set, the loved ones are all around, and the cup of our joy is overflowing. But then comes a day when the Bridegroom is taken away, to a far country, and the party dishes are put away. Our spiritual food is served at the kitchen counter rather than at the bountiful dining room table. Although all our needs might be generously met, something is missing. Someone is missing. Our heart aches, feeling the Absence – His absence. And our soul is bent down with fasting, longing for the day when He will return from the long journey and we find joy in His presence, feasting at His table, seeing Him again face to face.