“Then they told what had happened on the road, and how [Jesus] had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.” – Luke 24:35 (NRSV)
Every Rock Recovery treatment group begins with a shared meal. There are several reasons for that. For someone struggling with disordered eating, completing a normal meal without engaging in eating disorder behaviors can be a huge challenge; the presence and support of a therapist, a dietitian, and others in recovery can make a huge difference in that person’s ability to overcome that challenge. Then there’s the fact that both professional and social events often revolve around food (the business lunch, the holiday meal with family). Sharing a meal in the safe environment of treatment group serves as practice for clients, helping them develop confidence in their ability to navigate the complex emotions that eating in a public environment can create.
But in addition to these clinical rationales for sharing a meal, I think there’s a spiritual one too: breaking bread (or eating pasta or cheeseburgers or pizza) together helps us to know each other and be known in a deep and enduring way.
Luke’s gospel tells the story of Jesus’, after his resurrection, appearing to two of his disciples as they were walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus. But the disciples didn’t recognize Jesus. He talked with them as they walked, discussing everything that had happened in Jerusalem: Jesus’ trial, crucifixion, and burial. Throughout it all, the disciples had no idea who this person walking with them was. It wasn’t until they ate together that Jesus’ identity became clear to them; as Luke puts it, Jesus was “made known to them in the breaking of the bread.”
Clearly there’s a reference here to Communion, the Christian celebration of Jesus’ last meal with his disciples before his crucifixion. But I think there’s also a broader truth that Luke’s words express: that we can become known to each other in a unique and profound way by sharing a meal together. When we eat together, we acknowledge our common vulnerability—that our lives depend on our bodies’ being regularly nourished with food. But when we eat together, we also acknowledge our common strength—that when we do feed our bodies well, we can use them to accomplish all kinds of remarkable things. That combination of vulnerability and strength lies at the heart of what makes us human. And so when we share that vulnerability and strength by eating together, we come to know in an experiential way how much we have in common. We come to know that we belong to one another.
That’s why I believe that breaking bread together is such an important part of Rock Recovery’s treatment program. And it’s why this year, for the first time, our annual fundraiser will center around sharing a meal together. At Building Bridges—Breaking Bread, you’ll do more than have the chance to learn about and support the work that Rock Recovery does throughout the DC area. You’ll get to experience the hope and freedom that can come when we become known to each other in the breaking of bread.
It’s a joy and a privilege to break bread with Rock Recovery’s clients each month, and it will be a joy and privilege to do the same with you at Building Bridges—Breaking Bread. I hope to see you on May 7!