Theology of a Table
Let me begin with this disclaimer: I rarely ever send Tim out to buy anything whether it be groceries, household items, or even flowers. No matter what, he always comes back with twice as much and spends three times what I would. (This is something I love about him, but also drives me crazy at the same time).
We were three weeks into living in our new Oxford home. The kitchen "table" at that point compromised of a contractors table that the workers had left over after they finished renovating the house. It was lopsided, veneer pine, and had it's share of speckled paint. We were on a strict budget, wanting to buy only that furniture we would absolutely need for the two to three years we would live in England. The table was already there, so I felt we should use it. Ain't nothing a beautiful table cloth can't fix.
We headed to Ikea to buy dining chairs and spent those first few meals eating together at the contractor's table. I tried to ignore the fact that there were numerous spilled drinks and a constant wobbling as we sat around it. We were saving money and with the conversion rate of $1.80 to the pound, we needed to be thrifty.
About three weeks into using the contractor's table, I came across a solid wood console on Gumtree (the U.K. Craigslist) that would be a great tv stand for in our family room. So, Tim hopped on his bike and road several miles in the dark to go check it out.
What I did not expect was for Tim to come back hours later and say, "Hey, babe. Not only is the console lovely, but they are also selling a beautiful, solid wood table with leather chairs."
I looked at him and flatly said, “We don’t need a table. We have one.”
And then Tim, in his typical fashion, launched into a 20-minute discourse on the theology of a table. Why the table is the heart of the home, how it is the place we all gather around every single day, it’s where memories are formed...and so on.
We went back and forth on the issue for several days, until I began to think more clearly about what he was saying. It is true, that the table is the place where everyone gathers. Life happens around the table, whether it's eating and drinking, doing schoolwork, or creating Lego worlds. The table should be the most well-used piece of furniture in any home. The table gives life.
Over and over again in Scripture, Jesus confirms how spiritual hunger and physical hunger are intertwined. He gives numerous examples from His own life of the importance of providing a place to eat. He not only planned for times to eat together, He stopped the business of the kingdom in order to sit down and eat.
“The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from the shore, about a hundred yards. When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread... Jesus said to them, ‘Come and have breakfast.’” (John 21:8-9:12a)
“I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way.” (Matthew 15:32)
The spiritual needs of a person cannot be separated from the physical needs. They are intricately woven together. Sitting around the table is a life-giving pattern.
Unfortunately, in our fast-paced society, we grab something on the go rather than finding time to sit together as a family around the table. We lose the rhythm that brings life.
In her book, For The Family's Sake, Susan Schaeffer Macaulay writes,
“Homes need a place in which to eat and a schedule that allows the time necessary for a regular mealtime...These meals spell home, should be as enjoyable as possible, and, most important, convey a rhythm of life.”
Human relationships are forged together around the table. Discussions take place that might not take place elsewhere. Nourishment provides the catalyst for fostering deep conversations. We are involved in each other's lives, listening intently to what each has to say. We soak in the glory of each and every one.
“A television screen has no place here, for we are the ones living life. We’re seeing and hearing each other or relishing some peace to think our own thoughts. We’re savoring the smells, giving appreciative attention to the textures…A warm togetherness around the family meal table is really what fellowship and communion are all about...Nothing can replace this day-in, day-out pattern. NOTHING!”
We are the ones living life! Rather than escaping reality to watch it unfold on a screen, we soak in the reality of the life we ourselves are actually living. The table forces us to take a moment to sit and contemplate life, our lives. The pattern of regular meals eaten together around the table cannot be replaced by anything else.
The table is also a place to process our thoughts, ideas, creations. There is rarely a day Legos do not find their way to our kitchen table. Each morning, we have to clear off the stenciled fashion designs the pixies have spent hours creating. These creative processes are life-giving.
The table is the framework around which they gather with each other, comparing dress designs, paintings, and drawings. They bring out their miniature teacups and drink green tea, while constantly refilling the sugar bowl. They are learning life processes while becoming little artist's themselves.
The table is the stabilizing center of life.
I listened long and hard to Tim's argument on the theology of a table. I also calculated that if we returned the IKEA chairs the money we saved could be put towards the lovely leather chairs and solid wood table Tim had found.
But I thought even deeper on how there truly is no price tag one can place on the life-giving patterns and processes the table provides. In fact, Christ Himself, promises that one day after He returns, we will gather around a table to celebrate Eternal life with Him.
We went back and bought that lovely English table. Tim was in his glory. And needless to say, I fell in love with it too. It sat in our kitchen in England for two years. We invited families from all across the globe to share dinner with us around it. We homeschooled the pixies each morning there upon those leather chairs. Our "lodger"-dear friend, Asha, taught the girls how to sew as we saw fabric draped across it's wooden boards.
After all that, we could not dare part with it. And that lovely, wooden table from Oxford, England made it's way across the Atlantic Ocean to the U.S. as we shipped it back with us.
We continue to work out our own theology of a table as we pull up a chair here on the Second Acre in Charlotte. We discuss our thoughts, create our ideas, and nourish our bodies as we gather around it.
We are the ones living our lives around this table. And it is life-giving.