“Time to eat!” How many times have you yelled this throughout your house at your siblings/kids/spouse? Then everyone comes at his or her own pace and takes their respective place at the table. Sometimes everyone is there. Sometimes, there’s a gaping spot where someone should be.
A few years ago, my husband built me a farmhouse table for our dining room. During the planning and building of our house, I considered myself Joanna Gaines and Ben, the talented Chip Gaines. Their roles are pretty accurate for us – I tell Ben my vision for things and he makes it happen.
This table is a lot nicer and more sturdy than the one I grew up eating around. We usually do not even eat any meals at this table, opting for the counter or the “breakfast table”, as each is closer to the sink (i.e. easier to clean up strewn peas and flung fruit).
But it’s a special table and gathering area nonetheless, and is one of my favorite places in the house. When we are not in the midst of a pandemic, we enjoy hosting at our house and using this space to entertain.
This table makes me think of the tables Jesus sat around during his day. In fact, I would bet that he even made a few during the time he spent as a carpenter. Maybe without the farmhouse vibe, but equally aesthetically pleasing. Functional at the least.
Biblically speaking, mealtimes and gathering together played critical roles in the daily lives of the people of the time. They didn’t exactly have McDonald’s drive-thru to roll up to on their donkeys, so they relied on people in the towns they travelled through to provide them with food and somewhere to rest. It sounds like the makings of a Dateline episode to us in 2020 America, but this was customary.
Sure, they could have gathered and eaten together without a table, like they did with the infamous story about the loaves and fishes. But having a table to congregate around changes the dynamic. It enables intimacy. It provides a place to be together, unencumbered by the stresses of the world. A place to make connections with the people around you – whether they are family, guests, or people you just happen to be seated next to.
You know another great thing about eating at a table? There is an unspoken cadence to the whole routine, so you kind of know what to expect. The pressure is off – unless, of course, you are Jack aboard the Titanic dining in first class! You don’t have to worry about getting it right or trying to play the part.
When my brothers and I are home visiting my parents with our respective families, our time at the dinner table usually turns into hours-long discussions. Long after the food is gone and the plates have been cleared, we will still be sitting there reminiscing about days gone by and strategizing for the future. Much like our brothers and sisters of Jesus’ day.
At the last supper, Jesus’ 12 dearest friends dined together, and like my brothers and me, sat around talking and just spending time with one another. Tables really are essential in setting this kind of stage.
When we come to the table, we are usually wanting. Wanting food, companionship, safety. We want to be seen for who we are and to be accepted. Jesus sets this kind of table for us today. He has everything we need, from physical food to the spiritual food we consume. The people He places in our lives to sit at our table. The fact that we get to sit at His table and enjoy a relationship with Him. This is my kind of table.
It doesn’t matter if you have a farmhouse table, one you clumsily put together from Ikea, or a TV dinner table in your living room. Each table is composed of the same key materials – legs and a top. How elaborate you make your table can vary from the type of wood or metal used to the ornateness of the hardware used to hold it all together. Some tables are meant to be used for only a season, while others are built with enough sturdiness to last a lifetime.
What is your table made of? Is it built on prayer and scripture?
What kind of tables are you sitting around? If you are what you eat, I hope that you are sitting at tables that influence you positively.
That’s how I want my table to be. More than just Southern Living material. I want to be clamoring to pull up more chairs to my table with people who are hungry for more than the food I can provide. I want to come to my table full and overflowing with the knowledge that I am loved by a savior who sacrificed it all, who hung on the very wood that my table is made of, so that I can live abundantly in this time.
-1 Corinthians 10:27 “If an unbeliever invites you to a meal and you want to go, eat whatever is put before you without raising questions of conscience.”
Matthew 18:20 “For where two or three have gathered in My name, I am there in their midst.”
1 Corinthians 11:33 “So then my brothers and sisters, when you gather to eat, you should all eat together.”
Ezekiel 15:2-5 “Son of man, how does the wood of the vine surpass any wood, the vine branch that is among the trees of the forest? Is wood taken from it to make anything? Do people take a peg from it to hang any vessel on it? Behold, it is given to the fire for fuel. When the fire has consumed both ends of it, and the middle of it is charred, is it useful for anything? Behold, when it was whole, it was used for nothing. How much less, when the fire has consumed it and it is charred, can it ever be used for anything!”