In college, I lost my faith without even realizing it. While I still clung onto my Christian identity, it was only in a cultural sense — I never went to church, was not in true community with other Christians, and certainly did not treat others the way I wanted to be treated. I was brash, angry, and would pick fights just so people would pay attention to me. One of my dearest friends, the wisest Christian I have ever met, caught me spouting off nonsense about how Christian I was — she had watched for years as I desperately tried to cling on to the identity of Christianity without producing any fruits of the spirit. She finally lost it. “Davis, God could do amazing things with you if you just got out of the way. You just aren’t that good at this.” It was the first time, of soon-to-be many, that she made me cry. The scales fell from my eyes — I realized I was broken, hurting, and felt like I had nowhere else to turn. I was spiritually starving.
I was recently reading St. Matthew’s account of the feeding of the multitudes — Jesus takes two fish and five loaves of bread and feeds thousands of people (the biblical author only names 5,000 men, but doesn’t give us an accounting of how many women and children were present). Jesus gives baskets to the disciples and asks them to feed the hungry throng of followers who had come to hear Jesus speak. The disciples feed everyone and still had food to spare.
I immediately identified with the people in the crowd who were exhausted, had sore feet from walking miles to hear Jesus speak, desperate for a bite of food to regain their strength. A kind word, a smile to bolster their spirit. I remembered my time in college, spiritual starvation, and how I wasn’t ready to be fed. The crowd knew how to satiate the hunger in their soul: by hearing good news from a homeless Rabbi from Nazareth. In the disciples, I saw my friends who watched me toil: Jeff, Laney, Rachel, William — all of those Christians who had been fed the spiritual food of Christ and had enough left over to feed me too, strong enough to hold me up when I didn’t realize that I could barely walk anymore. They were ready to hand me the abundance of Christ, but I was not ready to receive it.
When I arrived at St. Peter’s in 2018, I saw that this was a community of people striving to lift up one another through love. To accept each other at whatever point of the journey we were on, just as Jesus does. The recognition that “we are one body because we share one bread, one cup,” allows us to see our neighbor’s suffering as our suffering, their joys as our joys. It means allowing our basket of loaves and fishes to overflow with the love of Christ.
During the darkest parts of our Christian journey, we will need a dedicated disciple of Jesus to patiently wait to hand us bread and fish and smile. Someone to remind us that one day we will have the strength and abundance to help others in a way that seems impossible to us now. As the body of Christ, we are called to serve others with joy. Look around, acknowledge those who are feeding you, and pray for the strength to feed others.
Davis A. Tapp, Executive Director, The Choir School at St. Peter’s