“…Your children like olive plants around your table.” –Psalms 128:3 (NASB)
It is a Friday night- 8:18pm. As I sit typing this, the dishwasher hums and jingles as it runs; my daughter lies in the living room playing with the cats when she should be trying to sleep; and me? I’m exhausted. So it goes in the everyday life of a single parent. The house needs to be cleaned, I have a million things on my mind, and my own personal alone time is virtually null lately. Yet, there is a calm and peace - a warmth over this apartment. I know the Lord is residing with us tonight. It has been a long week and now it’s time to relax and enjoy a weekend with my little girl.
Tonight was sort of on-the-fly. Dinner consisted of a frozen pizza, rice, carrots, and water. Not exactly a 4-course gourmet meal, but it did fine. You are probably wondering “Where are you going with all of this, Matt?” Well, the idea for this article was just laid upon my heart less than an hour ago. You see, as we were eating, my daughter proceeded to tell me almost an entire week’s worth of school occurrences in a matter of minutes. Given the condition I’m currently in, it would have been so easy to write this off as normal babbling and tell her to hurry up and eat so we can get ready for bed. Thank God I actually picked up on this ever so slight, but priceless and meaningful moment. These are the times we should be living for as parents, times I’m sure slip by more often than they should. So what is so important about eating together as a family? Tons.
If you noticed in the opening scripture, the psalmist made it a point to include the words around your table in the verse. What does dinner time look like in your household? From my own experiences and hanging out with other single parents, I understand that dinner can be anything from pizza on the go to a fast food drive through. It may even be considered to be letting the kids go in the living room and watch a movie while they eat so we can get caught up around the house. Sound familiar? It does to me - because that’s the way I handled many meals in the past. I never grasped the magnitude of what it means to bring dinner back to where it belongs: at the dinner table.
Studies have shown that when families do eat together, the children are less likely to engage in self-destructive activities such as drinking, drugs, and sex. They are more likely to increase school performance, be healthy, and have higher self-esteem (according to Webmd) I even had one lady tell me that asking questions as simple as “How was school today?” can have an incredible impact on future academic growth. Although every single one of these factors carries tremendous weight, I still believe it goes beyond that. Thinking back to tonight as I listened to my daughter talk, I realized not only how passionate she is about life, but how well she perceives it already. She was literally breaking down something that happened in gym this week and told me just how it should be handled. Funny thing is, I agreed with her. “Wow,” I thought to myself, “I learned something about her tonight.” I honestly cannot tell you the last time I did that. Yes, we get to know our children as they grow, but when is the last time you actually learned something about your son or daughter? Again, subtle but powerful moments that often seem to vanish as quickly as they appear.
We need to slow down. Our world is already chaotic enough and in many ways, the family structure has been destroyed because of this. God instructs us to Exodus 14:14 in His Word. Our personal time with Christ will set the stage for what our time with our kids looks like. If we only get our quiet time with Him in when we can, then we produce the same with our families. Jesus tells us inLuke 6:38 , “For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (NIV). Don’t let that happen in your home. If necessary, begin to make changes today to enjoy sit down meals as a family. Shut the cell phones and TV off for a while. Ask questions and laugh with each other. Create memories now that will last for generations. When you do, then your children WILL grow - just like a bunch of little olive plants around your table.
With that being said, all is quiet in my house now. The dishes are done; my daughter is sound asleep; and I am going to bed grateful and content. God’s grace in my life allowed me to step away from myself long enough tonight to catch just a glimpse of how He sees us every single day.
Matt Haviland is the founder of “A Father’s Walk” single dad ministry and the author of the book, A Father’s Walk: A Christian-Based Resources for Single Fathers. He currently lives in his hometown of Grand Rapids, MI and is a single dad to a beautiful little girl himself. For more information on the ministry, please visit www.afatherswalk.org.
Publication date: January 24, 2013