At the seminary, in the cafeteria, there were round tables. Right in the middle. Around the perimeter there were rectangular tables up against the windows. There was a table for the Latin@s, a whole section for the African Americans, and a couple for the Asian American students, and even one for the international students.
It was the middle, right in the center, that’s where all the white students took up space.
Mostly I sat with the Asian American students or sat with a friend for a lunch date upstairs and out of sight. Sometimes new students or outsiders would ask me why the students didn’t mix more during meal times – after all, we were future leaders of the church, so this should theoretically be the last place we would see any segregation.
One student, a woman of color remarked that it’s hard enough to be “on” day in and day out – in class, in the dorms, at the church internships. Meal times were a chance to not worry about explaining yourself or seeing a questioning look and wondering why you were sitting there with perfect strangers after all. A Korean student used to tell me that there was a feeling of exposure and vulnerability – literally, opening your mouth and head bent over your food, made him feel self-conscious. He didn’t feel safe.
Sometimes I sat with my white boyfriend. And his friends. In the center. And I would watch the students of color walk by and it would feel like I made a mistake.
The communion table this Sunday morning is so neat, polished, organized – pretty and in order. Decently, in order. I can’t help but flashback to the morning with the kids around the table for breakfast. Ozzie is covered in Nutella and yogurt. Cheerios underfoot covering every possible square inch of carpet (who in their right mind HAS CARPET IN THE DINING ROOM?!?!?) Little pools of milk all over the table from eating cereal. Plastic animals and car tracks making lines of milk and fruit. Too many utensils on the table and under chairs. Ellis, the boxer dog, frantically eating as much as possible on the floor and up on the table before I get a chance to yell at her to get out of here.
“There is always the temptation in life to diddle around making itsy-bitsy friends and meals and journeys for years on end. It is all so self conscience, so apparently moral…But I won’t have it. The world is wilder than that in all directions, more dangerous…more extravagant and bright. We are…raising tomatoes when we should be raising Cain, or Lazarus.”
― Annie Dillard
At so many levels, I can smell and feel the depth of my falling short and being such an eff-up. Instead of being overwhelmed with eucharistia I’m overwhelmed by the abundance of guilt and shame.
But, God confronts me, too. God’s strange grace. It’s there. It’s just hard for me to digest sometimes.
The story of the flood. I can imagine a little what it would be like being on a boat. These weren’t water/boat people, I think. What did they do for seasickness??? Andy and I went on a whale-watching tour during our honeymoon and I missed most of it. Because I was laid out on my back or dry heaving over the side of the boat. The sound alone would have driven away humans and whales.
I can remember feeling panic for a moment. Being in the middle of the ocean with nothing but water and sky for miles. I remember what it’s like to feel that in my soul, too. No way out. No rescue. No relief. No land or solid ground or something to stop the rocking back and forth. And feeling utterly and completely alone. Abandoned. Forgotten. Forsaken.
But in Noah’s story the waters begin to recede – how? They just dry up somehow? Get soaked into the earth? Does the thirsty soil finally give in and let those waters quench it’s veins and channels?
“I felt a rush of trust–felt that life might be not just tolerable but beautiful, if I could only remember to find the bare Present. ” ― David James Duncan, River TeethClick To Tweet
God remembers us. God remembers me. At the table, I remember Jesus’ words, “Take, eat, do this remembering me.” But they are words of another sign of the promise that God remembers me, too.
God. Remembers. Me.