We inherited great-grandma Gigi’s giant dining room table. It came complete with four leaves, six chairs, and a tiny dot-to-dot print of a house from my mother-in-law’s craft project gone awry. Our table is a huge blessing to me, not because of the weight of the cherry wood or the pretty carving on each chair. It is a blessing because it allows me to gather my family all in one place, even for just a moment, safe and secure.
I'm amazed every time I sit down. “We’ve done it,” I think. Moments ago, there were whining small humans begging for a snack and gripping my pant leg like Armageddon was imminent. I always need to grab one more fork, someone most certainly did not get the drink they wanted, and the day’s hectic-ness lays on the edge of every single nerve in my body.
When we sit down, the stress of the day rests, palpable, on the center of that table. We all bring it there. It’s uncomfortable, and we all seem a little put out by the mere act of gathering ourselves around this table in this moment.
Then, my husband starts our prayers . . .
“Come, Lord Jesus,
Be our guest.
Let these gifts to us be blessed.”
“Thank the Lord and sing His praise,
Tell everyone what He has done . . .”
Sometimes we’ll even pray something as silly and wonderful as the Superman prayer.
As wives, we have to muscle through that weird, uncomfortable moment where we’re just irritated at the world for the fact that dinner needs to be made and food feels like a necessary evil of life. How dare these people at our table require sustenance, again, at the close of the workday?
And husbands, you have to man up and show up at the table. You need to know that you are absolutely integral to the lifeblood of this family, the bringing together of this marriage, this moment of togetherness.
Sitting around the table with one another creates a safe harbor in the storm we call life.
In Mark 2:15–17, the author writes:
And as He reclined at table in [Levi’s] house, many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and His disciples, for there were many who followed Him. And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that He was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to His disciples, “Why does He eat with tax collectors and sinners?” And when Jesus heard it, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
In these verses, Jesus shares with us the value of gathering around the table with our family, as well as with those looking for a family to invite them in. There is something intimate about the act of eating together that we do not find on the couch or in the bedroom. Eating food reminds us that we need God, that we are all unrighteous and need the Great Physician to love us, and that we need people in our life who will invite us to Him. We eat, yes, but then the conversation begins. The intimacy of sharing food opens family life up to conversations that we may not have had otherwise.
I recently took a log of conversations that came up around our table:
- Which stinky cheese is absolutely superior
- What we will find in heaven and why we want to be there
- What our travel show would look like and who should produce it
- What to say when friends are mean
- Which Bible stories would make fantastic VBS lessons
- Why life hurts
Imagine how many conversations would be missed without our tables. Husbands, wives, children, and friends all find a safe place as they gather around food and drink provided by a God who loves us. Sometimes there is laughter and joy, sometimes tears, sometimes even anger and frustration—all expressed appropriately in this very safe place. This is around the table at its best.
In our churches, God invites us to His table. He gathers us around His plate and His cup, no matter how beautiful or how ugly the week was. He asks us to drink intimately of His death and His resurrection. He offers forgiveness in our darkest moments. He offers us His presence to take with us, to shore us up for the stuff of life when we walk away from that table.
In our marriages, our friendships, and our families, when we gather around our tables for any meal, we give one another a different reminder of the safety we have in the Body of Christ. Just as at the Communion rail we lay our burden before Jesus Christ and receive Him intimately, around our tables we invite one another to share who we really are, laying down our burdens to share with one another God’s faithfulness when life is good and when life is hard.
“It’s not going to work for us,” you say. “We are always running around,” you say. “Everyone is on different schedules.” I get that. Just work to make it happen when you can. Around the table isn’t about guilt; it’s about grace. Schedule a moment for meals even once a week that looks more like relaxation than rushing. Order food in, if that’s what it takes. Eat cheese and crackers from the box on paper plates.
Once a week, that’s the goal. Then move the goal up to three times a week. Then, once a day. This is as important for marriages as much as it is for families with young children. Imagine the hopes and dreams and struggles that can be shared given thirty minutes and some good dessert.
Gather around the table. It’s one way to build safe places in our homes where life can be shared and we can rest naked and unashamed in God’s glorious grace.
Dear Lord, You created food, not only for our sustenance physically, but also for our well-being in relationship with You and with one another. Please be in our homes, in our marriages, and in our families. Help us to invite Christ in and let His grace pour out to those we love around our tables. Guide our conversations. May they be pleasing to You, an offering of all You give us in Christ Jesus. Bring Your love overwhelmingly into our homes and fill our hearts and lives with more of Your Spirit. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.