After years of showing up to my own dining room table I am convinced it is one of the most vibrant places we can show the consistent love of Jesus to a hurting world. If you’re like me, the brokenness of the world can send you to a dark place. There’s teen suicide, depression, racism, human trafficking, and injustice that can slash our hearts right through.
But where do we start? How do we truly become the hands and feet of Jesus in such a time as this?
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It is my belief that our authentic desire to show more of God’s love to the world can materialize into action through the simple act of coming to the table and sharing a meal. I believe God can powerfully use us right where he has us.
Growing up my mother was an expert at getting her family to the table. She always had a home cooked meal waiting for us. She learned this from her mom. And her mom learned it from her mom. But I let the buck stop with me. After I left home and after I got married I let the practice of coming to the table fade from my routine. In a culture of takeout, streaming TV and every social media channel imaginable – who has time for the table? Unfortunately, most Americans agree, there is just no space for us to show up for a family meal.
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We’re busier than we’ve ever been. More distracted than we’ve ever been. And statistics show we’re also lonelier and more depressed than we have ever been. My husband and I felt the weight of this and decided that getting back to the family table could be the simplest and potentially most revolutionary thing we could do for our relationship.
We were shocked at how much change we saw as we kept showing up to the table. Our relationship became richer, our communication with one another filled with more grace and understanding. We also started to notice that because we were showing up to the table, we had room in our lives to invite friends and family. This created more opportunities to shower God’s love on those he placed in our lives.
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Showing up to the table to share a meal is important because it is how Jesus carried out most of his ministry here on earth. Just read any of the Gospels and you will see how many times he took a place at the table of the brokenhearted, the shamed, the everyday average person. If he made it a consistent part of his ministry, maybe we should too? Maybe there is more power in showing up to our everyday dining room tables than we could ever imagine.
I know too well how difficult it is to consistently show up to the dining room table, our culture is working against us. So here are my favorite 5 tips to bring back family meals.
It is not enough to just want to start coming to the table, you have to be intentional. Block out time on your calendar for family meals at the beginning of every week. Make sure your whole family knows which nights are for family meals and get them to buy-in on why this is important!
Sometimes my best intensions at the beginning of the day all but disappear by the evening. I decided to set a recurring timer on my phone at 5:00pm titled “Finish Strong!” When the alarm goes off I take a few minutes to refocus through prayer and ask the Lord to give me the energy to be present at the table and to still be a vibrant source of his love. It has made all the difference.
This one is a game changer! Set aside time on Sunday to meal plan and grocery shop. When Monday at 6:00pm rolls around you will not have to panic about what to make. You already know what recipe you are preparing and you already have the ingredients. This makes the path to the table all the more achievable.
Tradition has taught us that family meals occur around a dining room table at 6:00pm and include solemn prayer and questions about the day. But we do not have to abide by this tradition! Depending on what season of life you are in, mealtime might need to happen earlier or much later. Find what works for your family. And if showing up to your physical dining room table seems dull – have a picnic in the backyard! Go to a local park! Also get creative with what actually happens at the table – maybe you have a fun game or come up with some intriguing questions? Get everyone excited and looking forward to time at the table. Create the guidelines that work for your family.
God has placed us on this earth to be light and show his extravagant love to the people around us. We might think this means we need to go on a mission trip or maybe even move out of the country or giveaway everything and move to a new neighborhood. This might certainly be the case but if we are willing, he can also use us right where he has us. Allow your table to be a place neighbors, friends and even strangers want to show up to. Start by inviting them twice-three times a month and slowly increase as you feel led. You will be amazed at how God will use you.
If you’re looking for more, I wrote a new book, Come and Eat: A Celebration of Love and Grace around the Everyday Table. In it I share my own journey to the table to inspire you to begin or continue your journey to the table. I also include a 21 Day Adventure at the Table. It’s filled with 21 recipes (a whole meal plan!) including questions and prayers for everyday of the 21 days to help you start!
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Image courtesy: ©Thinkstock/monkeybusinessimages
Publication date: September 5, 2017