Grace at The Table
Last week was our first week of starting back to school. (I know, I know – the rest of the world has been back in school since July. Trust me – I was counting down the days until I could wave good-bye to everyone at 8am. I tried not to look too gleeful as I dropped them off in their classrooms last Wednesday morning with the knowledge I wouldn’t see their knee-highed legs again until 3:30pm that afternoon.)
It was a “soft start” kind of a week since they were only in school for half the week. We go to a school where my kids attend school on campus on Mondays and Wednesdays, and I home school them on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Fridays are “free days”, where good home school moms take their kids to places like museums, historical markers, and the original log cabin where Laura Ingalls grew up. By Friday, I am usually laying on the couch in a comatose state attempting to take a four hour nap while my kids are left to entertain themselves in the house with art projects left over from the summer. I am in full support of Jessica Trozzo’s statement, my friend and fellow homeschooling mom, that “our kids have really fun lives; I don’t feel the need to entertain them every Friday.” At least, that’s how I comfort myself when I lay down on the couch on Fridays.
Anywho, last Thursday was our first home school day and Friday was “free.”
So this week is official – we are really back in school. Yesterday was our first Tuesday home day, and I have to be honest, I had forgotten from last year what long days Tuesday are. Thursdays we have a little more breathing room. If we didn’t have time to fit Grammar in, or we forgot about Science, we can squeeze it in over the weekend. But there is no squeezing on a Tuesday; everything has to be crammed in to be turned in and ready to go for a campus school day on Wednesday. And by yesterday evening, when Jason walked in the door, I didn’t even have words left to tell him how the day was. All of my words had been used up by 3pm, and all that was left was silence or an occasional grunt.
I wish by the end of the day on Tuesdays I felt tired like I had run a really good race or completed a really good workout. But it’s not that kind of tired. It’s a tired like someone has taken me to a woodshed out in the backyard, laid me over their knees, and given me a good, sound spanking. I know that might sound strange, but to put it another way, at the end of a Tuesday, I never feel like, “Wow, that was a hard day but it was a GREAT day! I just excelled in my role as a mom; what a fabulous mom I must be!” It’s more like, “Wow, I can’t believe I blew it THAT MANY TIMES IN ONE DAY.” And if I have any words left, there are usually spent in saying “I’m sorry,” as in “I’m sorry for yelling when you dropped your peanut butter and jelly sandwich on our newly washed rug.” Or “I’m sorry for yelling when I was reading to you about the planets and you lunged for our cat so you could play with her and act like I wasn’t doing my best to educate your brain about Pluto (which isn’t even a planet anymore, by the way, according to a vote by some astronomical board! I felt robbed, cheated of my knowledge of the planet line ups when I was in third grade. I always felt like Pluto was nice little dot at the end.)” And “I’m sorry when you whined for the hundredth time about having to learn to write the letter “A”, I told you if you did that again, you would spent the rest of your life in time out because this is simply part of pre-K; I already finished pre-K and know how to write my letter A’s.”
Are you getting the picture? We’re not exactly the Brady Bunch over here on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I feel more like a circus master running a four ring circus.
It doesn’t help, either, that I am teaching Sunday School for the first time on Sunday since getting back from China. Which means every morning at 5am I drag myself out of bed and stumble downstairs to sip on a cup of coffee while I try to put coherent thoughts about the Bible together in my brain and on paper. I love trying to put coherent thoughts about the Bible together; what’s tough about teaching, particularly this week, is that to teach a good lesson, you have to live a good lesson. You have to hold your own life up under the bright light of the Word of God and let it convict, challenge, and change you if you don’t want to be a hypocrite when you stand up there on Sunday morning.
All that to say, this week’s lesson has been particularly challenging because it’s on the parable of “The Great Banquet” that Jesus tells at a dinner party in Luke 14:16-24. I always find the toughest, most challenging lessons to teach are on the words of Jesus Himself. His words are just so – hard. And difficult to understand. And I always find myself so lacking underneath the weight of the words of this God-Man who came and flipped the world upside down with His justice, mercy, love, and grace. Particularly during a season when I am struggling to give grace to my kids, much less to a waiting, hurting, groaning world.
I won’t go into all the details of the parable, but what has given me hope this home school week are the three groups of people invited to the banquet Jesus outlines in Luke 14. The first group represent the religious elite, the people who sit in the pews, who know the Word of God backwards and forwards, who have grown up in church, but do not know Jesus Himself. They are hell-bent on making their own rules and regulations to the Great Feast and Table of the Lord, and Jesus, with all of His grace, is messing up their guest list. With tax collectors like Zaccheus. Prostitutes like Mary Magdelene. Blind beggars like Bartimaeus, truth seekers like Nicodemus, blue-collar, uneducated fisherman like Peter and demon-possessed Gentiles like the man from Gerasene.
Not only do they dislike Jesus, but they are doing everything in their power to completely stop the banquet from even taking place. So they refuse to come. No show at the last minute in a deliberate attempt to publicly humiliate the host and bring him shame and dishonor.
So how does the Host respond? Does He go out and wreak havoc on all of those who have rejected His invitation to His table? Quite the opposite. In the words of Kenneth Bailey, “The host reprocesses his anger into grace” and begins to invite to his banquet all those who could never pay him back. He tells his slave, “Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.” This second group of invitees represented the lost sheep of Israel that Jesus came to seek and to save, but it also represents you and me. It represents all those who are outcasts and who have been on the outskirts their whole lives but now, according to the lavish mercy and grace of God, have been invited in. I know because I have one of these invitees who sits at my table on a daily basis. She has black hair and brown eyes and the cutest little dimple over her right cheek you have ever seen.
She is a daily reminder to me of GRACE. Of the grace that sits at our table and the grace that is the only ticket to sit at the table to come. And her story of being outcast, abandoned, forsaken, and then brought in to a family and to a table is a reminder to me of all of our stories. Sometimes, though, it’s easy for me to forget my story and my need for an invitation in. Because let me tell you, more times than not, I am in the first group. The religious group. The group that thinks I have no need of the Savior’s table or can make up my own rules and set my own table. And then Jesus’ grace undoes me and I move from outside the door to take my place at the table with all of the rest of the broken invitees. I know that once I yielded to Christ as Lord I have never lost my place at His table, but I sure do have the tendency to get up and move around at lot.
Yesterday, I took Mia Grace to a long time friend and gifted photographer to have her picture taken, an official portrait for the Baker Girl Wall of Fame. Cindy had never met Mia Grace but was well aware of her story and how long we had waited to bring her home. As soon as she saw her, she started to weep. And throughout the photo session she wept. After every few pictures, she had to put her camera down to wipe away her tears.
I have discovered that Mia Grace has this effect on people. In the midst of our everyday, day-to-day, rat race and craziness, Mia Grace is this burst of…grace. A reminder of our invitation to the table. A reminder that we, too, are invited in. To sit down. To pull up a chair. To be called family. To know and be known. And to feast. Not in spite of our brokenness, but because of our brokenness. And because of the Host who died to make us whole.
So today, whoever you are, whatever your brokenness looks like, whatever your past or present, and wherever you’ve been, keep the feast, accept the invitation, and sit down. You have a Savior who is waiting.