I grew up one of three boys. We’re all big. My dad is 6’7”, my brothers and I are all over 6 feet, and all well over 200 lbs. My mom is petite, but the guys more than made up for her. We lived in a reasonably sized home, but the kitchen was a bit small and we generally could not fit all around the kitchen table for dinner. So we tended to either eat dinner at separate times, or eat in the living room off our laps or tray tables. When we were all together, we would put out pizzas on the table in the kitchen, fill our plates, and go to the living room. To me, the dinner table was where the line formed for the family buffet.
My wife grew up one of three girls. They’re all small. They all fit around the table in their dining room, and they are all very social. They learned to socialize around the dinner. To my wife, the dinner table was not just about food. It was about relationships.
So we get married. Almost instantly, I realized that our influences were pulling in opposite directions. And in a rare, almost miraculous moment of maturity, I concluded that my wife’s “pull” was going to win. So we’ve actually never had so much as a long conversation about it, let alone an argument about it. I’m used to dinner lasting as long as it takes me to clean my plate.
My wife is used to being at the table for an hour. I simply had to adjust to eating at the dinner table, without the TV or computer, socialize, and not eat so much and so quickly that it’s disgusting to my wife. And truly open up to my wife.
There is an understanding, we can even call it a subtle theology, about food, eating, and the table in the Bible. It is interesting in 1 Cor 5:11 that Paul advises believers to “not even eat” with another Christian who is perpetually immoral. Why the reference to eating? I believe it is because you share your heart and mind deeply around food; a real exchange happens between people.
Paul was concerned that even mature believers could be led astray by a believer who has fallen into bondage by sharing meals together. Meals are that significant. And it is significant that the most open and intimate portrayal we have of Jesus in the Gospels is around a dinner table, just before he is betrayed and ultimately led to his death. Jesus wanted to share his heart with his closest friends, and it happened at a meal.
I often look at God’s mission in the world as God starting a family. There’s family language everywhere to describe the people of God, whether it is Israel in the Old Testament or the Church in the New Testament. The very act of taking communion is a reminder that Jesus made room at the table for you and me. We have been invited into a deep exchange and relationship with Jesus… and with the rest of God’s people!
Almost four years later, I’m getting better at interacting at the dinner table with my wife. We also strap our 14-month old daughter into a highchair and dine with her, too. We hope our daughter learns to value our time around the dinner table; but first things first, we want her to learn to not throw food on the floor.