I remember when I was first married our first dining room table was a round aluminum umbrella table that should be used outside. We threw a table cloth over its frame to cover the hole in the middle for the umbrella and put some sturdier chairs around it so that no one entering our home would realize right away that it was not a real kitchen table. As we started having children, having a nicer table became more important to me. I needed to make sure that there was room for each family member around the table, as well as room for a friend or two that decided to stop by and dine with us. So over the years, we went from the umbrella table, to a round table for 4, and now to an oblong table that seats 8.
So what is so important about a table anyway? Most of us don’t even use them anymore unless we are entertaining or it is a special occasion like a holiday, birthday or something. Many people are even forgoing their formal dining rooms in their homes and replacing that space with an office or library. I think the table is so very important in our home that when I have gone looking for a new home, if it doesn’t have space to put a really long table in it, I have walked away and gone onto the next one.
To me, tables unify a family. It brings everyone to one central location and puts them on an even plane. For us shorter people, those that typically might tower over us, are now looking us eye to eye. If everyone is sitting at the table for a meal and someone decides not to sit there, it is an instant act of discord or disunity, is it not? I remember fixing a meal, setting the table and then arguing with the kids to come sit with us as a family instead of sitting in front of the TV night after night for many years while raising my kids. When everyone is sitting at a table looking at each other, it opens the lines of communication. And for some odd reason, it feels safe. Just having that little piece of wood there between us, provides us with enough personal space that we don’t feel threatened or invaded.
Jesus used tables a lot in the Bible. It was mentioned on more than one occasion about someone going and preparing a table. A prepared table, or set table, is an invitation to those entering to come and sit down a while and enjoy one another’s company. Have you ever been to a wedding and had assigned seats for the meal? I don’t know about you, but until I see the name place at the table with my name on it, I am in a panic. What if they forgot to put me at a table? But once I see it, I instantly feel welcome and a part of the big day.
Jesus also welcomed the tax collectors and sinners to sit at His table with Him when others could not understand. He realized that these particular people didn’t really need healing in a physical sense as others did. However, Jesus knew they needed spiritual healing instead. By inviting them to His table, He was able to talk with those who otherwise would not have seen the need to take the time to get to know Him. It was a very unthreatening environment and enjoying a meal together around a table breaks down barriers that might otherwise be in the way.
Saturday, we had about 17 people here for lunch to celebrate Thanksgiving. It was very important to me for us to all be at one table so in order to accommodate, Jim added a couple of leaves into our regular table and put another table on the end of that to make sure all of the chairs were basically around one big central space. As we sat around the table, eating our holiday meal, it felt as though for that moment, all masks were gone and we were one.
Our table has many stories to tell if it could talk. It has heard the stories of missionaries, the heartaches of good friends, and the struggles of our children as they passed from childhood into becoming the adults they are today. It could also boast of lots of times of laughter where some even laughed until they cried on more than one occasion. It will be sad if we move to another home and replace our table with another. It has been through some good as well as bad times with us…it’s almost like it has been part of the family. But our family is growing and therefore, so must our table! When the kids and our friends aren’t here and it’s just Jim and I day to day, we’ll probably appear like the Richie Rich family with him at one end and me at the other end of a very long table. However, I’m not going to look at it anymore as a lonely or sad thing. I’m going to look at each chair as a symbol of each child or loved one that I expect to be sitting there at our next family get together. I won’t look at them and be sad that they are gone; rather, I will look at the seats with great anticipation of the next time we are all gathered once again to celebrate another occasion.
So what stories does your table have to tell? Who can you invite in the weeks ahead to come sit, eat, and get to know you a little better than before? It’s really not about the food or beauty of the table settings; rather, it’s about taking the time for loved ones and friends. Relationships are the important things in life. So go prepare your table and invite some friends over this holiday season! You’ll be glad you did!
Luke 24: 30-35 (NKJV) 30 Now it came to pass, as He sat at the table with them, that He took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they knew Him; and He vanished from their sight. 32 And they said to one another, “Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?” 33 So they rose up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, 34 saying, “The Lord is risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” 35 And they told about the things that had happened on the road, and how He was known to them in the breaking of bread.