The Table

by Susannah Baker

My children have taught me many things about many different subjects, but one thing they have taught me a great deal about is the table. I never thought much about the table, or cooking, or food before I had children. I didn’t really care what was served at the table or how it got there as long as it was there. And don’t blame my mom – she tried to teach me, she really did. But she finally gave up after I almost burned the whole house down when I left a pot of broccoli on the stove because I didn’t want to put my book down. It not only blackened the broccoli, turning it to a crisp, but it scorched the entire stove top as well. Almost set the whole thing on fire. Who cares about broccoli, or anything for that matter, when you are a few chapters away from finishing Lloyd C. Douglas’ classic book The Robe ???

But then I had children. And while poor Jason subsisted on cowboy stew and frozen biscuits for the first five years of our marriage (sorry, babe), I knew browned beef mixed with cans of minestrone soup wouldn’t cut it for my toddler. So I set out to learn how to cook, much to my mother’s (and husband’s) relief. And if I may say so myself, I’ve done an ok job of it. I not a gourmet chef by any stretch of the imagination, nor am I that creative with the dishes that rotate off and on our table, but I have come a long way from canned soup and cowboy stew.

As a mother of three young children, many days, life seems to revolve around the table. Organizing meals, shopping for meals, preparing meals, forcing people to eat their meals, and then, finally, cleaning up the meals….only to start the whole process over the very next morning.

With as much thought and effort that I, and every mother out there, puts into what goes in front of our children, that is why it just galls me to no end to have to force people to eat. Threaten. Cajole. Give the evil eye. Wake up from a dead sleep (see the picture). Because in all honesty, it’s usually pretty darn good stuff.

While I can’t count on many things during my ever-shifting day-to-day routine, what I can count on is that at some point, I am going to have to threaten somebody to eat my food. To set the timer. Give a consequence. Battle it out over broccoli.

But at the core of my mother’s heart, what I really wish is that each of my children would learn to simply and gratefully receive the provision that’s been set before them. Because as Lizzie learned yesterday, eating eggs and toast at 7:15am when it is hot and fresh tastes much better than having to eat it at 4:15pm when everything is cold and soggy from sitting in the fridge all day. (By the way, that consequence was a stroke of pure genius. I think she literally licked her plate clean this morning without me having to say a thing.)

And I am pretty sure that is a lesson my Heavenly Father wants me to learn at His Table as well. Most mornings, I have to be cajoled out of my bed. Set my timer. Given the threat of no hot coffee. When all the while, a plate of the most delicious food has been set before me in the pages of Scripture in my study below. Nourishment awaits me in the discipline of prayer. Sweetness beckons me in the intimacy of relationship. And while many nights I go to bed with a heart heavy with burdens I cannot carry, the meal served to me when I awake is just what is needed on the table of my heart and in the course of the day ahead.

But the question is, why is it so hard for me to eat the meal? To regularly and gratefully pull up my place at the table? To eat while the food is fresh, hot, and ready? Why do I insist on skipping meals or taking my plate out of the fridge later when the food still provides sustenance but isn’t nearly as good as it would have been in the dawn of my day.

One of my greatest desires is to be a regular participant at the table of the Lord. To never miss a meal or a morsel. To appreciate and show gratitude for each and every course, each and every cup, each and every bite.

My God is a much more patient parent than I am. He doesn’t threaten, cajole, raise His Voice, or set the timer. He simply removes the plate. And then waits. Waits for me to run half-starved to the table where I frantically look for my place. And the amazing thing is, my place is always there. Still set. But wouldn’t the meal have been better freshly served? Eaten when I was still half-alive instead of half-dead? Take a lesson from Caroline, Lillian, and Lizzie: don’t waste time missing meals at the table. Pull up a chair. Grab a cup of coffee. Sit down, and eat. Savor every bite. Because the meal that’s been set before has been planned for the menu of your day and the state of your heart long before your eyes ever opened or your feet hit the floor. As a child of God, relish in your plate and in your place at His Table. It’s a meal worth eating every bite.