I love my big, natural wood dining room table. And I love having people sit around it for hours on end eating good food and sharing their hearts. For me, the table captures the true essence of hospitality. Through the years we have hosted countless people around our table and are so much the richer for it. Nowadays with grown up children, we don’t often sit around the table as a family, so when we do it is a great treat.
Being invited to the table is the sign of friendship and generosity. Feeling safe enough at the table to speak our minds and know that we will be truly heard is a gift. Henri Nouwen writes, "The table is one of the most intimate places in our lives. It is there that we give ourselves to one another. When we say, ‘Take some more, let me serve you another plate, let me pour you another glass, don’t be shy, enjoy it,’ we say a lot more than our words express. We invite our friends to become part of our lives. We want them to be nurtured by the same food and drink that nurture us. We desire communion.”
I have so enjoyed the song, At the Table by singer/songwriter Josh Garrels. Josh says, “The idea of home, in its most idealized sense, would be the place where we’re fully known and accepted. I was fortunate enough to have a pretty solid upbringing. Since I was young, home-space as always felt sacred and safe to me. Yet, I am conscious that home being a safe place has not been the reality for many.”
Many people have not had the joy of sitting with family at the table in a peaceful and constructive way. Today many families are so busy that they seldom take the time to eat together as each person grabs their own food on their own schedule. Or worse yet, people sit together but are so distracted by technology that conversation is non-existent or incessantly interrupted. Much research has been done on the subject of family meal times and there is conclusive proof that regular family meal times make an extremely positive different in preventing teenagers from destructive lifestyle choices.
Prioritizing family meal times around the table may be one of the greatest things you do for your family. You may want to read 10 Things Children Learn at the Dinner Table.
After one of my Heartistry Workshops an attendee said she planned to go home and clear all the paperwork and other items off her dining room table so that their family could sit around the table for meals, which they had not done in years.
Martin Luther King declared his deep longing by saying, "I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgie, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit together at the table of brotherhood." Today there is still a great need for people to come together around the table literally as well as metaphorically and speak as “brothers”.
Our daughter Fay started Deliberate Discourse Dinners as a way to bring people together around the table to talk about difficult and troubling issues. I have attended one of these and it was a powerful experience.
I spoke at a women’s conference last year and I led the group in an exercise where we wrote on pieces of paper an aspect of God’s character, such as peace or joy that would meet the current need or longing of our heart. I had laid out a very long piece of paper on the floor to represent a banquet table and we placed our papers on the “table”. We then came to “God’s table” as it were and stood around as community and prayed for one another. It was a moving experience.
I have also been pondering the well-known Psalm 23 as I have considered what the words mean that say, “He prepares a table before me in the presence of my enemies.” In the midst of difficulty and the unknown, I am trying to learn to be at peace and to receive from God what He has prepared for me. (You may enjoy listening to Chris Tomlin's song, The Table.)
Currently I am between homes, so my table is packed away in a storage POD somewhere in a warehouse. While I wait for the day when I will once again have my own home, I am learning to be creative and set a “table” in many different ways, some of which I will be sharing with you in the next few weeks.
Ronald Reagan said, "All great change in America begins at the dinner table." I encourage you to gather your family for meals around the table. Add others from your community. Spend time talking about things that really matter.
Time at your table is treasured time.
- What are your childhood memories of being at the table?
- What positive things did you experience that you can implement in your own life now?
- What needs to change and how can you have a different atmosphere at your table?
- What prevents you from inviting people to your table?
- How could you prepare practically in order to gather around your table?
- Are there any heart attitudes that need to change?
- For those with families, how can you improve family meal times?
- Who can you invite to your table this week?
Share your thoughts and experiences (that are not too personal) in the comments below.
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