Most of us are skilled at hiding our own shortcomings in everyday life. But have you ever noticed that something happens when you gather around the table?
Our warts have a way of coming out.
If you don’t believe me…think back to a holiday meal. Most of us can recount a story of someone who said something so awkward no one knew how to respond. The uncle who kicked off a political argument that nobody wanted to have. The in-law or friend whose offhanded comment cut you deep.
The table has a way of unmasking us. Revealing our imperfections and woundedness.
This tendency challenges us in at least two ways:
First, how do we join a table that should be a place of unity, community, and joy in the midst of our brokenness?
Second, how do we respond with compassion when we encounter someone else’s brokenness?
These questions are unavoidable if we want to experience the joy of the table.
One of the most frequent themes in the New Testament is mealtime. But if you look closely at these meals you uncover a rhythm.
As Eugene Peterson points out, there is a pattern of being….
Blessed. Broken. Given.
Peterson says, “[These three elements are] the shape of the Eucharist. [They are] the shape of the Gospel. [They are] the shape of the Christian life.”
The table is not just a place where hungry people gather to eat, it’s a place where broken people gather to belong.
So how do we create tables of belonging? Tables of inclusion? Tables of love?
One of the many startling discoveries in my research for Taste and See: Discovering God Among Butchers, Bakers, and Fresh Food Makers, is the source of hospitality.
God is the genesis of all hospitality.
He designed the blueprint of the garden as an Ultimate Chef’s buffet—seeding the world with beans and greens and tangerines. He met the original couple in the cool of the day—placing them at ease, at comfort. They were completely disarmed, enveloped in acceptance and love. I imagine those walks involved conversation alongside noshes and nibbles of sugary fruits, crunchy veggies, and more.
So how do we put people at ease, at comfort, enveloped in acceptance and love?
Here are three practical tactics:
1. Before you share a meal in your home, ask about preferences, food allergies, and the preferred beverage. The first two are common, but the third is a way to make a person feel loved and at ease. For less than a dollar, you can pick up a guest’s favorite soda, tea, or preference in a way that communicates, “You matter. You’re worth paying attention to. Your voice is heard.” And all that with a single sip
2. Consider how you can create places and spaces of connection. When guests come to our home, we often gather in the kitchen—a natural connection place. We’ll place out a charcuterie—a simple tray of meats, cheeses, nuts, fruits, and crackers (including gluten-free) for people to savor. The kitchen is a heart of the home—one that makes people feel participatory, included, and involved.
3. Pray before your guests arrive. Just as God’s presence graced the original couple, how much our souls ache to experience Him, too. Though dozens of options fill menus, take-out orders, and grocery store aisles, the deepest longing of the human heart is to experience that which money can’t buy. To know and to be known. To give and receive. To be vulnerable and well received. Invite God to walk in the cool of the day before and during the meal served.
My hope and prayer over the next few weeks is that you will experience table time as transformation and taste and see God’s goodness in soul renewing ways.
If you haven’t pre-ordered your copy of Taste and See: Discovering God Among Butchers, Bakers—grab your copy here today!
How do you nurture hospitality in your home and life?