Good morning, Lord. Monday morning. Bored. It’s not as though there’s nothing to do. There’s just no motivation. What’s the matter with me? It’s a….
At the drop of a hat I leave my Quiet Time to peek at the movies on TV. Don't ask me why; does there have to be a reason? Maybe I’ll see some flesh! Whoopee! Who cares about responsibility? Who cares about doing the right thing? What's the harm in a little diversion?
It’s not likely I’ll get lucky, but you never know. With several hundred channels there's bound to be something. The quality of the movie is irrelevant: in fact, the worse the better. All that matters is finding the show most likely to give me what I want. Within a few minutes my hopes are aroused. I nervously wait. Alas, no luck.
I flip some more, chancing upon Babette’s Feast. I’ve seen it before; perhaps you’ve seen it too. Not much chance of titillation in this film. I pass it by, but return to it several minutes later.
Babette's Feast is a beautifully simple movie about an austere Norwegian religious community.
Babette, who had been a refugee from France, cooked for two women in the community. Their father had founded the sect years before. His vision had been to prepare for the new Jerusalem by strict observance of religious practices on earth. Poverty, simplicity, chastity, the denial of earthly pleasures -- these were their values. And they faithfully practiced them even long after their father's death.
Lacking their father's strong vision and stern hand, the women observe that their little group is growing fractious. Relationships are tense. Joy is lacking. The original dream is growing as old and tired as the members themselves.
The founder’s hundredth birthday is a few weeks away. Babette asks if she may prepare something special for the occasion. The sisters fear the potential extravagance but consent despite their reservations.
Their fears are not unfounded: all kinds of exotic foods and wines appear at Babette’s kitchen in the days preceding the feast. Horrified, the sisters call the community together. They’ve committed themselves to the denial of earthly pleasures: how can they honor their founder while engaging in such decadence?
The community shares the sisters' misgivings, but determine to attend Babette's feast. Sufficiently warned, they decide they’ll just ignore the taste of the food. “We have no taste buds,” one of them says. The rest agree.
But they can’t do it. As it turns out Babette had been a world-famous chef in France. She has used her entire lottery winnings to prepare a lavish meal for this small community of faith. The dinner is exquisite: beautiful settings, fine wine, a meal befitting royalty. Despite their reluctance they cannot help but enjoy the feast.
As the evening progresses a subtle change begins to creep around the fellowship. Barriers which had existed between them begin to break down. Pettiness melts away; in its place hints of joy, of forgiveness, of love. The visiting General who had left the community long before said it well: “Mercy and truth have met together.”
Extravagant grace was extended to an unsuspecting, undeserving and ungrateful community of saints. It worked its magic in their little fellowship. A wife kisses her husband. Estranged friends bury the hatchet. A blustery winter evening becomes a beautiful moonlit night. The community pauses around the well as they exit the home. They hold hands and for the first time in a long time sing with heartfelt joy and love. An elder gentleman remains as the others leave. His arms extended, he says, “Hallelujah!”
Twice during the meal a tear appeared in my eye. I thought of the lavish gifts of grace which have been given to me. I thought of the joylessness and pettiness of my life. I thought of the hard exterior which so easily characterizes my close relationships. I thought how much my world resembled that of the misguided though well-meaning saints around the dinner table. I wondered if joy would return to my life again. I thought of grace, like Babette’s feast, poured out to me, one so unsuspecting, undeserving, and ungrateful. I hoped it might work some magic in my own life, just as it had for them.
I returned to my computer intent on resuming my now midday journal with God. But the only words that will come out are the ones I’ve just written.