"What He ordains for us each moment is what is most holy, best, and most divine for us." Jean-Pierre de Caussade

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Come to the Table

Someone asked me a couple of weeks ago if my husband and I still sit at the table to eat each evening now that all the kids are gone. My answer: "Yes, ma'am; and with placemats." You see, when my husband and I bought our current home some 11 years ago, one of the features I loved the most was the space it had to not only host my large breakfast room table left to me by my grandfather that spreads out to seat 10, but also the beautiful dining room table and chairs I inherited from my great aunt some 26 years ago -- not to mention the trestle table my brother built for us when we married and is now a focal point on my sun porch. No doubt, my love for entertaining and having people put their feet under my table was inherited from my mother. But I think that's only a portion of it. What is it about a table that brings us back again and again?

I think, for one, the table represents acceptance. That was never more evident than in the biblical account of David and Mephibosheth, the son of David's covenant friend Jonathan and the grandson of Saul. After King Saul died, the new king, David, summoned lame Mephibosheth to come and dine at his own kingly buffet -- to pull those lame feet under his royal dining table. Mephibosheth, one who should have been either killed or stripped of every royal right, was instead marked as "Accepted!" characterized by being invited to the table. When we invite people to place their feet under our table, we are virtually saying, "I accept you."

But the table also represents intimacy. The "breaking of bread" together extends much further than just sharing some food. The food, the drinks, the words, the stories -- are they not all intimate ways in which we give our lives to each other? I remember one occasion when I invited a widower -- a greeter at Wal-Mart -- to come and have supper with us. My husband, children and I sat around the table for hours as he told stories of when he served on a battleship in WWII. I've never seen one so emotionally distressed and lonely from a loss come so alive as he remembered and shared his life with us.

On another occasion, I invited a group of 6 brothers who were performing at the GA National Fair to come have a little southern lunch with me and my brothers. They came not only from somewhat of a different culture but also from a very different religious background. And before it was over, the feet under the tables totaled 32, but a better time had never been had.
The guests have been as diversified as the stories. Church folks, family members, revival speakers, out of town visitors, hurricane evacuees, and like I said, even a Wal-Mart greeter. At one time or another, we've used all the tables -- even a card table draped with lace and set for 4, placed in front of a warm fire on a cold winter night.

You see, when we eat together, we become vulnerable to one another. Weapons are not worn at the table. It is a place of unity and peace. Or should be. The supper meal can also be the most dreaded part of the day because of the silence that so starkly contrasts the intimacy of the table. It can be almost unbearable; the silence deafening. But a really peaceful and joyful meal? Ah, now that belongs to the greatest moments of life. And I've shared many of them.

While I know it's not the correct response, I now understand why a person's decline to a dinner invitation has often wounded me. It's more than just a meal at stake. It's more than just a desire to eat together. Whether it's two or twenty-two, sharing a meal, putting one's feet under the table with another, is the most intimate expression of our deepest desire to give ourselves to each other and to BE the bread, not just break it.

Just an ordinary moment...


Joey said...

You've taught me something very important in this post, and I appreciate it so much.

This isn't ordinary for me... I believe you are extraordinary.

God bless you, you're a wonderful teacher.


Martie said...

Nancy.... I agree with everything you said!! I love sharing my table with others. I haven't done it much since we moved here but you have challenged me to use my gift of hospitality again........

Jan said...

Nancy I really enjoyed that blog. It's all so true. Thanks for sharing.

Kim said...

I've had the pleasure of sitting at your table and it's always such a joy. Another joy that you and I have shared together is cooking. What a blessing it is to be in the kitchen with great friends or family preparing food for special guests. P>S> I've always appreciated the love and attention you take when preparing meals for others.

Fred said...

I'm about ready for you to "show off" for me. I "preshat" a good meal occasionally... One that I didn't cook. lol, Buff