What were the times when you had thoughts like this?
What joy! What fulfillment! This is why I’m here!
When I reflect on this for myself, all the times of peak fulfillment were an experience of a high and intense love filling my heart and soul. There was fire falling from heaven into me and the space that I was sharing with others. That brought a knowing of the significance of my life, and of life itself.
The fulfillment wasn’t first of all about the physical setting. It was always about what I was experiencing with other people.
A peak moment for me was the day the second-grade class I taught graduated. It was my first year of teaching at Mission Bell Elementary School in Riverside, California. I had a class of 35 seven- and eight-year-olds for at least five hours daily for the whole school year.
That day they were happy, proud and strong. They had painted, danced, sang and told stories all year long. And that was in addition to all the reading, writing and arithmetic. They loved coming to school so much that they couldn’t wait until weekends were over.
I knew I had changed their lives. I knew I had set them on a course of success in life. I can hardly remember when I’ve been happier.
In many religious and spiritual traditions, a meal symbolizes and commemorates fulfillment. In my own life, dinner parties have been a time of high fulfillment. There can be a delightful flow of conversation and laughter, the enjoyment of good food and wine. At a dinner party in my home, there is likely to be singing that fills the room.
I’m sometimes surprised at how few people throw a dinner party. Have you noticed that? I think to myself, Well, they just don’t know what they’re missing. Maybe they don’t know what it is to host a meal with other people, to invite people in, make them feel comfortable, to surround them with love and the spirit of home; to make them feel welcome and introduce them if they don’t know each other; to invite their presence and all they have to share.
Of course, during this global pandemic it is more complicated.
I’ve enjoyed breakfast many times in Voss, Norway, with Kari Bye and her late husband, Arnfin. Arnfin and his father built the house many years ago. The inside is finished in wood and the dining room looks out over the lake and the snow-capped mountains on the other side. We enjoyed intriguing conversations about spirituality and Norwegian culture while enjoying brunost—a brown goat cheese—and so many other Norwegian delicacies. Love and family permeated the house. It was a true home. And I remember those breakfast meals as times of high enjoyment.
Perhaps we all incarnated here on Planet Earth for nothing more than a perpetual dinner party; an endless enjoyment of one another as human beings and continual creativity together. Perhaps we are here for a never-ending reciprocity of giving spiritual gifts to one another.
So often, people don’t know what it is to let the fire fall from heaven. Or, if they do, they forgot how to let it happen and how wonderful it is to let love fill their heart and soul and the place they are in with others. So they don’t share it with other people. It doesn’t become real in the human space. And when they look for something wonderful, they assume that it is at some other level of Being—up in heaven. Or after the apocalypse or the Rapture. Or after retirement.
Whatever might happen years from now or in some other dimension, why don’t we let the wonder and significance of transcendent love vibrate in the space right here where we are?
To share in that, we not only give each other permission to give our gifts; we empower each other. We uplift each other. And in a given cycle of Creation, we grant another person the honor of igniting the fire of love and focusing it for us all.
We can think about all the wonder that is born out of this. Families grow and are nourished by what happens at the dinner table. Growing up, that happened in my family. I know that in raising a child, it happened for my daughter. And in community it’s so vital, so life-giving, that we celebrate a meal together.
Jesus used the opportunity of a supper to bring deep communion. That supper became the basis for a religion. The meal harked back to earlier rituals. Something happens for us when we commune together and we allow the wholeness of who we are to be known and shared, allowing the baptism by fire to be known by us together.
When that doesn’t happen, people get cross. When they don’t feel the baptism by fire in themselves, they don’t feel the communion with other people and they don’t feel like they have a place at the table. They don’t feel like they’re part of the family or part of the community. They don’t feel like they’re seen, heard, loved or included. So they get cross, ornery and angry. And the human family breaks apart.
We need people who know how to host the dinner party and welcome all to the table with love and understanding. These are people who share this simple recognition:
Yes, you are part of the family of the world. You are one of all of us.
When one of us brings this message, they are speaking for us all.
Love is like that, is it not? The baptism of love is not just out of my love. It is the One Love, our love. And when that One Love baptizes us with its fire, we have that One Love to share. That One Love welcomes all to the table. And that is fulfillment.