Almost ten years ago, two of my best friends and I toured Italy via backpack. It was every sort of adventure you could think of three twenty-somethings having and then some. There were hostiles with the walls finger-painted every sort of color. There were castles and tours and bike rides. There were the Swiss Alps that my minds eye can still picture. If I breathe deeply enough I can taste the crisp, cool air entering my lungs – coating it with newness and freshness and something only the Swiss Alps are actually capable.
Overall, there was a lot of walking – a lot of getting lost – and a lot of laughter in the pursuit of a right direction. More often than not, we had stomachs full of good food and good wine. And in all of the walking and talking we ended up in Milan. You know – the fashion capital of Italy.
(What? Is anyone even supposed to know this? I know we don’t all follow Victoria Beckham. I don’t either. These are the things you learn when you tour Italy OR read Vogue. I obviously had to go to the country to learn anything of the sort).
VB would be ashamed of us. We did little shopping in this fashion mecca. I believe I bought a gold bangle that probably has a twin at Forever 21. In the midst of the people walking to and fro in their incomparable high heels and all their bags (oh my, all the bags, hanging off of all the wrists), the three of us found ourselves at a convent rather than BCBG. Something happened in that place that resonates with a forever impact – an impact that a pair of shoes could never match – because in an inconspicuous building lies Leonardo da Vinci’s, The Last Supper, and you inch closer to Jesus when your eyes rest on the painting.
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.
Inch, inch, inch.
This (unnaturally) almost led me to giggle at communion today. In all the seriousness of reflecting on my Savior, I laughed in my insides. Because 2000 years ago, the disciples sat around a table actually breaking bread and actually drinking wine. I can see it. Leonardo showed me how. Now we sit in pews and stare at a stage and we hope that somehow in the drinking and the eating and the staring we will be changed.
Being changed happens when we sit right next to Jesus. It doesn’t happen in the tradition. It happens at the table in the thick of life and crumbs and spills and betrayals. It happens when we surrender in the mess.
And so I think this week on the table, at the place Jesus told His boys that His body would break for them. I rub my hands against the wood where my fork clanks and my spoon gets messy, and I look into Jesus’ eyes as He tells of His blood spilling for me because His love runs that deep.
Because, how in the world?
I think about how He doesn’t want to.
Jesus didn’t want to die.
He even went to His Father and asked Him to take it all away.
But God didn’t. He didn’t take away the suffering. Instead, He brought mocking and torture and ills I can’t even express without making my stomach lurch. Even at my age, I can’t handle the cross. It’s rawness cuts through me. In fact, it cut right through me today as I sat trembling at the cross, mascara spilled into my blush with long streaks down my face.
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.
Inch, inch, inch.
Everyday we find ourselves back at the table. In its grooves and its stains and its mess. We eat here, talk here and live here. This space is the space where Jesus chose to tell His friends, just how much He loved them – at the table with bread and wine. They didn’t understand then (of course they didn’t) because what a bizarre thing to believe.
It is bizarre what we believe. That Jesus, a perfect man, sat at a messy table and told His friends that He was going to die to take away the sins of the world. And yet, I believe. Jesus, I believe in You and everything You said You were and everything You prove to be day after day after long day.
I don’t have to get cleaned up to be with this Man. I don’t need to gussy the hen house or spread out all my feathers to look pretty for my King. He, himself, was nothing pretty to look at, but He sure is everything to imagine while He hung there on the cross when only days before He sat at the table.
So dear one, who only gets with Him over silver platters, plastic cups and cut up pieces of bread – pull yourself right up to the table. Sit right next to Him over the crumbs and old grooves, and stare at the man who gave His entire, perfect life for your entire imperfect soul.
And touch His robe and be healed. Forever, be healed. And breathe deeply at the table again. Let the bread and wine sit between your fingers and inhale.