I don’t have many childhood memories of my family gathering at the dinner table. My father was gone before my memories began, and the stepfather who followed was frequently absent, either working in a different state or watching television in a different room. Maybe this is why my own children have a father who insists that we eat together whenever possible.
I expect each of them to stay at the table until our food and conversation are finished. Sometimes, especially when activities and distractions have been pulling extra hard on us, they groan at my rule. But it’s the times when we’re yanked in separate directions that I’m most insistent. The world is always threatening to pull our families apart, and all too often, we collude with it.
Maybe I saw too many episodes of Little House on the Prairie. I would watch with longing, wishing I could sit at the dinner table in the little cabin between Mary and Laura, wishing Pa was my Pa. Or maybe something God-breathed within draws us to a table in fellowship.
It was eating separately, if you think about it, that undid Adam and Eve and thereby undid us. The Deceiver offered Eve forbidden fruit, and on her own, she chose to eat it. We know from Scripture (Gen. 3:6) that Adam was with her and that he didn’t speak. This literally means that he stood watching dumbly. What if he had stepped in or she had thought to ask his opinion? What if they had considered this deadly meal together, bound to each other as they were?
Maybe nothing would have been different; the history of man certainly proves that we’re capable of evil when acting in concert. Whenever I think of people who should be eating together as a family instead of wolfing down their food separately, however, I think of Adam and Eve, divided by the serpent, each partaking as an individual of what they should have rejected together.
The serpent offered a divided meal, and that’s just one of many ways that he is an antichrist. Christ poured Himself out that we might be brought into communion with the Father. The serpent invites us to eat singly of forbidden fruit, with a false promise that we can be like God. Christ invites us to consume Him, that we might be made one with God.
It’s no small thing that Jesus instituted His supper at a table, inviting His disciples—even the one who was lost—to partake corporately.
It’s no small thing that Jesus instituted His supper at a table, inviting His disciples—even the one who was lost—to partake corporately. He asks us to draw close to the Father, but also to one another.
This is in my mind when I insist that my children sit together at our dinner table. Even though they sometimes chafe at our ritual, I can see that it brings them more than physical sustenance. I can tell this in the way they gravitate to stories—stories from my childhood, stories from their lives, and fairy tales they expect me to make up on the spot, to be continued through many subsequent meals. Sometimes they ask me for stories, and other times they are the tellers—one of them taking the lead to recount some experience they all had, the others jumping in every few words to add some critical detail or correct some perceived error.
We consume not just food at our table, but words, and I can’t help noticing the parallel with Communion, in that we Christians consume not just bread and wine, but the Word Himself (John 1:1-5, John 6:56). Our men of God speak and pray blessings over us, they pour out words of joy and admonition, and we draw near to be fed in body and spirit.
This takes place at Communion tables around the world, and I want to believe that something like it happens at my table in my home. One way to lead these little ones to God, after all, is to help them see the holiness around us, the holiness God has placed within us. So I try to make our mealtimes more holy, more separate from the world’s sins and distractions.
“Holy” may not be the first word that would come to mind if you saw my four sons chomping food and talking all at once and sometimes falling out of their chairs. On the other hand, maybe that’s what meals in heaven will be like: plentiful food, people on every side who love us, and everyone smiled on by a Father who loves—and wants us to draw near—more than we can fathom.