Austin and I just got back from traipsing around Charleston for two days. I had never visited, and having celebrated our five year anniversary only a month ago, we relished the opportunity to eat our way through the city. Charleston is beautiful. It is a city of coordinated historic buildings, and mauve (my new favorite color) is everywhere. Even the little plates of food that we ordered were served in beautiful arrangements, and I imagine they required the little food tweezers that they use on The Food Network cooking shows to arrange the herbs so precisely. The smallest detail of our hotel room stay was given attention: turndown service, luscious robes and towels, and linens imported from the Netherlands. It was a dreamy two days (a Wednesday and Thursday so that we could afford it), and we left full and grateful.
As we walked back in the door of our home here in Eastern North Carolina, something shifted in me. I was suddenly uneasy, pinched in spirit in a way I couldn’t quite describe or justify. It wasn’t discontentment and it wasn’t disappointment, both of which I considered as I started a load of laundry. My travel clothes are the only ones I wash on the delicate cycle, because they’re my best clothes and the only ones in need of particular attention.
I shifted my self-scrutiny as I unloaded the dishwasher we had run just before we ran out the door for our trip. It also wasn’t boredom or envy. I wasn’t sad to be home, doing homely things, washing my own dishes and doing my own laundry. In fact, I savored the time of settling back in and arranging the familiar accessories of my home in the way I always do. I knew I would love putting my shoes away just as much as I would love crawling into my own bed after being away.
Unable to pinpoint what was unsettled in my spirit, I ignored it. I went about my tasks, fixed dinner, and called Austin to the table. And as he sat down on my right-hand side where he always does, took my hand to pray without saying a word just like he always does, and as I flitted my eyes over the familiar meal that makes up our Sabbath liturgy every Sunday night, I knew: I am home and I am known.
The restlessness in my spirit arose from the juxtaposition of travel and home, of being a tourist and being a member of a family. And sitting down to that familiar meal, I was reminded that these are the traditions that ground us. They remind us that no matter where we go in this world the table is set for us back at home. We might spend some time away pretending to be prettier and wealthier than we are, wearing our best, delicate-cycle-necessary clothes, but the front door is always open and the kitchen table is always set. Here, we are known and welcomed just the way we are – even in the ways we are that we wish we weren’t, in the ways we look that we would rather not, and the ways we live that we wish we did not. At home, we are uncomfortably known and disproportionately welcomed.
As I cleaned up our Sabbath cheese board and put the dishes back in the dishwasher I remember how Jesus’ disciples met Him on the Emmaus Road after the resurrection. They talked with him and walked with him past towns not their own, hearing Him elaborate on the Old Testament prophecies and teach them from the sacred Scriptures. But then, when they sat down to a simple, familiar meal of bread and wine they knew: this is Jesus – our Jesus. He has really risen from the dead. It’s all true. It’s all real.
We have the grace of experiencing these upending, truth-teaching moments in our everyday liturgies. As we sit down to familiar meals, pray resonate and repetitious prayers together, and grasp for one another’s hands without requiring explanation, we remind ourselves of this tremendous truth: it’s all true. It’s all real. Jesus is – our Jesus – is here. We are known, we are loved. And He has come and made His home among us.