The Table: What Is The Significance?

06 August 2014

When I think back over my life and relive all kinds of memories, the very best memories and moments all seem to have taken place around one central point, whether in part or in whole. This central point just so happens to be the table. It wasn't always your typical table. Sometimes the table was a makeshift one in the middle of the living room floor or a park, sometimes the table was a fancy dining room table. Sometimes it was our own laps and other times it was porch railings. The form that the table took was never inherently important. What truly mattered was who was around the table. 

In some instances the people around the table were close family and friends, people I had known most of my life if not my whole life. There were times that they were friends I had known only a short time, acquaintances I knew merely by name, and sometimes they were people I met when they sat down. The variety of people is incredible to me. So many faces, personalities and stories have been gathered around these tables throughout my life. I have spent many, many hours around tables sharing funny stories and laughing with some of my closest friends and family. I have spent just as many hours around tables just sharing about life and learning the basics about people's lives. I have also spent a significant amount of time around tables sharing sorrows and pains and crying with people. The number of people has been different every time, but the honesty and truthfulness has been there regardless. Sometimes there are 30-40 of us taking up two long tables that we put into an L-shape where we are rubbing elbows the entire time while laughing constantly. Other times it is a one-on-one coffee date where we are talking about the hard parts of life.

No matter what form the table or the company takes, there is a huge significance to that simple item at the heart of it. The table. When we gather around the table there is almost always food and drink. We come for sustenance and nourishment. We come for great food and wonderful drinks. Most importantly, we come to the table to share our company. We gather around the table with people. The funny part about gathering around the table, with or without food, is that there is something inherently intimate about it. There is a connection that comes with gathering around such a simple item that cannot be imitated. As we gather together it is like our walls drop and suddenly we are vulnerable. I don't know exactly why that happens and I have a feeling it is different for everyone. 

During this last school year my seven roommates and I gathered at 9:30pm on Thursday nights to have a Bible study. We never did get started on time because we came in and would share how our days had went as we found a place to sit. Often times we brought our mugs either already filled or ready to be filled with coffee, tea or hot chocolate, blankets, and food of some sort. Sometimes we made cookies, brownies or cupcakes, other times it was chocolate of some sort, holiday candy, or chips/pretzels. We weren't too picky. The coffee table become a small buffet and we gathered around with Bibles and blankets. The mood was different every week as we all came in with our own burdens and joys. One week we were cracking up at everything and unable to stay serious for more than a couple minutes, and the next we were quiet and contemplative with our comments few. Many nights when we got to prayer requests someone would share a challenge or difficulty in their life and many times there were tears that accompanied it. In the openness and sincerity of the moments in the apartment our struggles both in our walk with God and our daily lives were shared with everyone. We shared the joy and the pain. We were there to celebrate with one another and to grieve with one another. On those nights we gathered around the table to share not only God's word, but our lives with each other. 

Gathering around the table with people is such a wonderful blessing. There are incredible moments and memories that come from the times when we grab a seat around the table and share with those we love. As I get ready to head into another year of school and living in a new apartment with three lovely ladies that I have never lived with before, I am really thinking about and processing the importance of life around the table. Bonds are formed and memories created. I really want to strive to be intentional about the time I spend around the table with others this year. I want to focus on building and strengthening relationships, as well as being open and honest with the people i'm around. There is a whole lot of hospitality that goes along with this, as you open your door and your life for others to come into. Shauna Niequist says the following in her book Bread & Wine: A Love Letter To Life Around The Table, "The heart of hospitality is about creating space for someone to feel seen and heard and loved. It's about declaring your table a safe zone, a place of warmth and nourishment.” I want our apartment and our table to be a place like this. Somewhere for people to come and relax, to share life with us, and to feel welcome at any time. 

What does the table mean to you? How have you been affected by what happens when we gather around the table? Do you see the importance of the table in your everyday life?
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