You Have a Seat at the Dinner Table

You Have a Seat at the Dinner Table

As a boy growing up in Michigan, I remember dinner time being one of my favorite moments of the day. Our whole family would gather around the dinner table to share stories about what we had experienced, good and bad. It was a sacred place. Our dinner table was nothing fancy. It was made with faux wood and covered with marker stains from art projects. Even though it wasn’t the most attractive piece of furniture, it stood for something noteworthy. It created a space for us to come together regardless of our differences and helped nourish the hunger of our family’s souls.

As I got older, we started eating in different places around the house. Dad would work late and sometimes not make it to the dinner table at all. Eventually our stories merely amounted to fragmented conversations and our dinner table became a decorative piece, standing lonely in our kitchen.

I often wonder if things would have been different for our family if that table had remained a place where we gathered to pause and enjoy each other. By the time I was sixteen, my father had left the family and my mother was working a minimum of two jobs at a time just to keep up with the mortgage and survive. Our new normal was far from desirable and our home never regained its feel of refuge.

It doesn’t take much to pull a family apart. Each of us have the world pleading for our time and attention. The reality is that everyday we sacrifice something to capitalize on something else. When we choose to rush, we sacrifice time to slow down. If we take on overwhelming debt, we lose generous freedom. The rituals of our life rhythms position us to choose either scarcity or abundance. One leads to desolation, the other consolation. Life has a tendency to try to pull us all away from the table.

It’s because of this that Jesus invites all of His family, even those prone to scatter, to come and sit at His table. But we often make excuses that keep us away from the feast in the Kingdom of God. It reminds me of the Parable of the Great Banquet in Luke 14. Jesus shares a story about a man who prepared a great banquet and invited many guests. When the man sent his servant out to tell those that were invited that the meal was ready, the man encountered many excuses about why they couldn’t attend.

I’m convinced that one of the most important spiritual disciplines for us to recover is the discipline of gathering around the table, communing with God and each other.

In her book Bread and Wine, Shauna Niequist writes, “We don’t come to the table to fight or to defend. We don’t come to prove or to conquer, to draw lines in the sand or to stir up trouble. We come to the table because our hunger brings us there. We come with a need, with fragility, with an admission of our humanity. The table is the great equalizer, the level playing field many of us have been looking everywhere for. The table is the place where the doing stops, the trying stops, the masks are removed, and we allow ourselves to be nourished, like children. We allow someone else to meet our need. In a world that prides people on not having needs, on going longer and faster, on going without, on powering through, the table is a place of safety and rest and humanity, where we are allowed to be as fragile as we feel.”

Maybe you’ve grown divided with your family and you’re standing lonely in your kitchen. Maybe you’ve filled yourself up with success and status and find yourself less hungry to feast on the simple meal that Jesus offers. If you’re wandering and scattered, there’s always a way back to the table. We’ve saved you a seat. And you’ll find more than just sustenance; you’ll find family to belong to, and the rest and forgiveness that only Jesus can supply.  

Would you consider coming back to the table?

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