by Elizabeth Hunter—

“Not fair!” complained my oldest son as my youngest son lifted the last blueberry muffin from the platter.

“Why does this salad have leftovers, Mom?” asked my youngest, also with a note of complaint.

Before I could respond to either, my oldest growled at his sibling: “And why do you always have to be so picky?!”

Somehow “picky” was misheard as “greedy,” and then for at least 30 seconds, I couldn’t get a word in, as accusations of ungratefulness and muffin hoarding flew between them.

Earlier that day I had asked my youngest son if he would bake a double batch of blueberry muffins. He enjoys baking and would benefit from a practical math lesson. He did well. Piping hot, with pats of melting butter, the muffins were an unexpected treat with hearty dinner salads.

I just wanted a nice family dinner, I thought. We’d come to the table, hungry and seeking to reconnect after a long day of working and e-learning at home. We’d prayed: “Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest…” We’d had a wonderful conversation about how important food is for our lives, after one of the kids asked about meat shortages due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

We shared what we’d read about the vulnerability of meat-packers and farmworkers who must live and work in close quarters. We discussed what we’d heard from friends who are farmers and friends who are now unemployed. We wondered if now, during the pandemic, more of us were thinking about how to love our neighbors and realizing that love and justice go together. We puzzled over the strangeness and sadness of a world where the hard work of hog farmers might be wasted, even though hungry, out-of-work folks at our local food pantry would be grateful to have these products.

Then the Blueberry Battle interrupted everything.

“STOP!” I finally shouted. It got their attention. “There are more than enough muffins!” I told my oldest. “Your brother made another pan, chock-full, in the kitchen.” Looking at my youngest, I said, “He said ‘picky,’ not ‘greedy.’ If you didn’t hear that, we might need to clean your ears out again. And both of you, stop the name-calling!”

“Oh,” the two of them said.

I was so annoyed, I almost missed seeing them exchange apologies and thanks. The Blueberry Battle had become Blueberry Grace.

Not until we’d cleared the table did I realize: I’d gotten so aggravated that I, too, had not appreciated dinner. It was better than “nice.” It was great! Good things happen when God brings us—with all our differences—to the table of “just love”—the theme for this issue. We are fed, forgiven and transformed.

I hope that for our readers, Gather can be a table set with a compelling, challenging Bible study (see p. 20 and p. 34 for the final “Just love” sessions from Pastor Christa Compton and Pastor Gladys Moore). At the Gather table, you’ll also find many different people eager to share their stories of God’s invitation to “just love.” May this issue’s authors remind you, as they have reminded me, that “just love” is never about fairness or deserving or anything we do. It’s all about God’s generosity, which must somehow become our own.

Elizabeth Hunter is editor of Gather.

This article is from the July/August 2020 issue of Gather magazine. To read more like it, subscribe to Gather.