Do you like to wait? Me either. It’s for the birds.
Waiting is not our strong suit. Henri Nouwen, the great Dutch Catholic priest, writer and theologian, talks about how impatient people are fearful people, and how pervasive fear is in the culture of our world. We don’t like to wait because we are afraid. Afraid that what we want won’t happen. Scared to let go of our wishes to be present to an open-ended outcome from God. Terrified at times of our internal life and thoughts, of our circumstances, of others and what others think. We tend to fill the space of our waiting with action. Our need to do something, to take control and hurry up the process supersedes our capacity to trust, to wait. Our hope is in what we wish for, rather than in God, who is our hope.
Waiting is tough. What helps you wait?
You know what helps me? Food. Being with my people at the table, eating a meal. There’s something about sitting down together for a meal, whatever it is, and even frozen pizza in my lap while we cry watching This is Us, that settles my soul. Food communicates love. Because we all need to eat to live, there’s a unique camaraderie in our need. When we sit face to face together, looking each other in the eye, something magical happens…
Conversation. Connection. You know, that old fashioned good stuff.
The table gives us a time out. A respite from the chaos of our day, our life, our world. A break from the digital connection we love, but is also robbing us of the real relationship we need. A reminder that there are other people waiting, that we don’t have to be afraid. That LOVE is a stronger narrative than FEAR. And when we sit at the table with people of faith, when we gather together to worship God in community, we are reminded that Jesus is Emmanuel God, which means He is with us. We are reminded of who is with us when we are with each other.
The meal still matters.
I want to acknowledge that perhaps for you, the table is a reminder of what you don’t have. Maybe you’re thinking, look lady, the only meals I eat are work meals, and if I never see those folks again, it will be too soon. You might have little kids, like us, and you’re just trying to make it through a meal with someone throwing a chicken nugget at your head. Perhaps you have some pain around the table, where shame, addiction, silence or control directed the conversation and the experience. Or maybe this is a season where the table has shifted for you. Perhaps you became an empty nester, or moving to a new place, or longing for a life partner, and feeling lonely at the table. Perhaps, you’re the heels of a divorce or difficult, painful break-up, or fight with a beloved family member..
Your pain matters. We see you. You are not alone.
Because of my passion for the table, and my belief in its power, I see the Bible as a book full of stories about the table. From Genesis to Revelation, there are stories of people sharing a meal. Just like today, sometimes the table served as a place for people to get to know one another, to form an alliance between nations, to see freedom come to a person or people group. People gathered because of their need for a miracle or justice. And the table even served as a form of resistance, and a pathway to peace.
Would you like to learn about a few of the foodie scenes in the Bible?
Let’s start with Eve and the apple. I’m not sure Adam and Eve were building tables yet, but the rascal serpent Satan fooled her, and she ate the one thing she wasn’t supposed to eat, and our need for redemption began.
Later in Genesis, Esau came in from hunting, hangry, and he told his brother, Jacob, who tended to stay indoors, that he wanted some of that lentil soup. Jacob said, okay, sure, but give me your birthright first. Esau was starving, so he said, fine, just feed me. His hunger at the table cost him his inheritance.
Jael, who is potentially the MVP of the Bible, had an evil army general show up at her tent, as one of the last men standing from a battle. Starving and exhausted, he let his guard down for a moment. She offered him some sweet milk from her table and then when he fell asleep, she took a tent peg, and drove that thing right through his temple. One ordinary woman, with great courage, brought about the justice necessary to end the corruption of an evil regime, at her table.
Esther, became queen through a serious of complex, unusual circumstances, and was given the opportunity to expose a racist, bigot, Haman. He issued an unjust executive order to kill all Jews in the kingdom, and needed to be exposed before the genocide took place. After overcoming her fear, and through praying and fasting, Esther set the table, with the King and Haman. She discerned the right time to tell the truth about Haman, and at her table, she brought freedom to an entire nation.
Daniel, Shadrach, Meshachand Abendego, four teens, were taken from their homeland to be used as slaves in the Babylonian Empire. King Nebuchadnezzar wanted to indoctrinate the best and brightest kids in Israel to perpetuate Babylon’s culture. The teens were allowed to eat from the king’s table, and these four young men said, no thanks, we’ll eat some veggies instead. In their resistance at the table, the young men became the best of all the men training under the Babylonian leadership. Their refusal to compromise their love for God in the context of their culture, changed the trajectory of their lives. At the table, they were active in resistance and found favor, promotion, and the opportunity to govern for the greater good
I haven’t even scratched the surface – the goodness keeps going, but this is a blog, not a book.
The gospels, and the book of Acts are filled with meals. The epistles, or letters, that follow are written from the Apostles to the church, were sent to ordinary people gathering together in the name of Jesus, likely over a meal. Then, one of my favorite pictures of the future happens in Revelation 19, the marriage supper of the lamb, when all the saints who have ever lived, will gather for a meal. Finally, we will experience the renewal we desperately long for. We will see the end of death and destruction, confusion and chaos, and every evil thing that exists. God will wipe every tear from our eyes, and there will be no more sorrow, sickness, tragedy or pain.
The whole Bible starts with creation, people created in the image of God, walking in unbroken fellowship with their Creator. From the apple, to meal after meal, humanity travels through time together, in our shared brokenness and goodness. How fitting that the Bible culminates in a beautiful meal, when we are with God again. Where we will know Him in unbroken fellowship again, with our world restored, creation redeemed, nothing missing, and nothing broken.
Food is so serious in our lives, holding the power to heal and nourish, to redeem and restore.
Friend, I don’t know what you’re facing. I don’t know what kind of courage is required in the chaos of your life. I don’t know who needs to be invited in, or kicked out, but if I could sit with you, at your table, in the presence of our Father, I would remind you that you are loved, that you have something the world needs, and that we aren’t the same without you.
And I also want to encourage you, that your table (even if it’s frozen pizza, no one cares), has the power to heal and restore. To reach and rescue, to bring justice and miracles. To discover purpose and courage, to unify and empower, to settle and still.
Whatever you’re waiting for right now, know that it’s gonna be worth the wait. Pull up a chair, and wait with others.
What’s your experience with the table? Have you ever thought about the many meals of the Bible? Are they resonating with you? How can you set the table for yourself and others this week?