March 16, 2012

The Fourth [Meatless] Friday of Lent

I have always had an interest in the faith practices of the Amish community, and find certain aspects of the culture surprising and even counter-intuitive. The degree of freedom offered to Amish children—both in decisions surrounding marriage and baptism—may seem unexpected for such a disciplined people. During Rumspringa, teenagers are given two years to live in and among the modern world to determine whether they want to join the church for life. At the end of Rumspringa, some choose to leave the Amish way of life and are not welcome to return again. In some cases, the child is not permitted to call or write any member of the family.

I thought this was harsh, and maybe even un-Christian. Providing the child the choice to leave, but not return! Then, in a recent PBS documentary, I heard this firsthand comment:

In the Amish community, when a child leaves, his place at the table is always set and no one is ever allowed to sit there. Three times a day, for the rest of his life, the child [far from his family] knows, 'My place is set.'

This quiet form of honor and remembrance moved me deeply. I imagined God setting a table and waiting (and waiting and waiting) for me to join Him. And then I thought about those in my life to whom I never have extended an invitation to fellowship and share a meal. Three times a day, the Amish family sets out a plate, a napkin, a cup for one who will never return. How comforting I find the knowledge that my place at God’s table is not only reserved, but always open for me to join. I like this notion for Lent: returning.

Today’s meatless meal is about returning to the table together, gathering at the beginning. I don’t see my husband in the morning, our waking and working hours differ; I leave the coffee pot on and head out the door. Breakfast for dinner is a fun way to re-create the start of our day as a family—today, with a savory twist. Click here for a memorable menu I shared with someone who returned to my life after twenty-two years…

Come back to me with all your heart.
Don't let fear keep us apart.
Trees do bend, though straight and tall
so must we, to other's call.

Long have I waited for your coming
home to me and living, deeply our new lives.


This post is part of a series on the (Meatless) Fridays in Lent. Click here to learn more about this series, and to see additional recipes.