A Place at the Table

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I have sat across the table from many a pastor and minister, shared meals with several business owners and with folks who are homeless, and have been invited into conversations with spiritually mature leaders and people who are skeptics. Only the table I’m talking about isn’t a fancy, polished mahogany table in the front room with its elaborate carvings, rich coloring and sense of substance. I have had the rich blessing of being invited back to the table in the kitchen, to the everyday space where life is lived and weakness is shown. The faces have been black, white, yellow, tan and every shade in-between. The tables have been high-end and they’ve been ramshackle, some sturdy and others rickety. Yet one thing has been constant in each and every situation: the view.

Behind the curtain of what is presentable and right lies the vulnerable, tender spaces that drive us far more than we like to admit as we go about our day-to-day lives. As I have been invited into that space, the predominate view I see is one of fear. Fear of failure; fear of success; fear of not being enough or of being too much; fear of disconnection and of connection; fear of risk and fear of exposure; fear of being burned or berated or discovered; fear of making a wrong choice again. It really doesn’t matter what branch is shown. The root almost always drives back to fear. We fear being a bad parent, a failing friend, an unsupportive spouse, of being too much or too little at work, at home, in life. So much to juggle, so much to wrestle through. We cry, we cajole. We react and fight to let go. Fear is debilitating and exhausting.

You know what? I love that space at the kitchen table. Whether I am the one giving or receiving, beautiful miracles happen every day around the table of truth. When the Holy Spirit is intentionally invited to take the center chair, wondrous miracles begin to happen. Encouragement begins to flow forth; spiritual truth begins to present itself. Hope begins emerging from its dormancy with the expectation of growth and the flowering of a heart in fresh spring. Faith is built at the table of vulnerability one conversation at a time. Fear begins to get supplanted by the power of God as He grants wisdom, insight, and the wonderous healing that comes from inviting each other into our sacred spaces, the place where we allow our most vulnerable selves to be seen. It feels like holy ground.

We have so much more in common than we realize, so much more to offer than we remember to credit God for. The Bible says, “But remember this—the wrong desires that come into your life aren’t anything new and different. Many others have faced exactly the same problems before you. And no temptation is irresistible. You can trust God to keep the temptation from becoming so strong that you can’t stand up against it, for he has promised this and will do what he says. He will show you how to escape temptation’s power so that you can bear up patiently against it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Each of us has a choice. Will we invite God to the kitchen table of our hearts? Are we willing to invite in others who have been called to that space? Will we choose to expose our darkness so it can be chased away by the light? When we do, healing takes place. The courage is put back in us; we find the strength to take that next step forward, no matter how shaky.

As I’ve come to understand, real faith isn’t necessarily the absence fear, but rather choosing to still step forward despite what we’ve seen and experienced. As we begin to take those wobbly first steps of faith, our confidence grows. Our faith becomes stronger. Like a muscle that is trained over time, our faith gains substance and power. The challenge is to have the conversations. It takes our head knowledge and transforms it to heart knowledge. We will always need this, no matter how much we grow or how much wisdom and transformation we have been blessed with. If Jesus Himself had to wrestle with loud cries and tears before the Father, how much more so us?

Embrace your space at the kitchen table. When you do, everyone walks away encouraged, even if it’s simply to know none of us are truly alone.

FOR FURTHER THOUGHT  What keeps you from taking a seat at the kitchen table? Do you find you sometimes run too hard and too fast as a way of avoiding it? Or numbing out with substances, people, entertainment or internet surfing? How do you let your fear get the better of you?

Jesus reminds us, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). When you catch the thief of fear coming full force at you, remember that it is truth that “extinguishes all the flaming arrows of the evil one” (Ephesians 6:16). Fight to make your way to the table of truth, whether from the Bible or from those around you, for in that seat you will find freedom.

PRAYER  Lord, I know You promise that You always have me and that my name is carved into the palm of Your hand.  Sometimes what I face is hard; it’s uncomfortable.  I don’t understand how You are working in my life. Yet what I always know is that You promise to be there right in the midst of whatever it is I’m going through, and that You are always in control even when I am not.  Thank You for that!  Help me to take a step of faith toward the kitchen table of truth today, remembering that You hold my hand and whisper Your encouragement as I do.  In Jesus’ mighty name I pray, Amen. 

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