My new table just arrived. It is big. It is beautiful. It takes up a lot of space. And I couldn’t be happier with it. I can’t wait to host the family around this new ten-foot monstrosity! With real dishes, real glasses, real silverware. This table is made from authentic reclaimed pine and it is massive in structure. It demands something more than Styrofoam plates, solo cups and plastic utensils. Disposable tableware suggests an unplanned temporary moment at the table. A table of substance suggests a leisurely conversation with dishes of substance.
This table calls you to sit and stay a while.
You see, I have been dreaming of this table for nearly a decade. It’s not like we have been eating off the floor for the last thirty years of our marriage; we have a nice table that is perfectly functional. Many people comment on it and I know it will find a good home now that I am done with it. But it was just too small to suit me. It only seats ten.
Here’s the deal. When my husband and I married, we opted to have our family while we were young. The first three children came at a pleasant and workable pace. But before we could gather our wits about whether or not to have a fourth, we discovered I was carrying twins. That did it. We were done. Feeling complete and maybe a wee bit tired, we stopped at five.
People say the dangdest things to a woman carrying twins with three small children in tow. They offer to show you the contraceptive aisle. They raise their eyebrows in disbelief and disapproval. They ask if you are Catholic, which apparently is the only acceptable reason to have more than three children in this century. Sometimes I wanted to say yes, just to get them off my back. The best statement I heard more than once was, “I could never do that.” Really? REALLY? Did they think I filled out an application for twins? As if my ambitious self could conjure up a twin pregnancy. I guess I should have known better.
From the moment I knew we were having five children, I was doing the math. I’m pretty good at this level of arithmetic and I concluded that some twenty years in the future, if all our children chose a spouse, we would need seating for twelve adults at a sit down dinner. It’s antiquated, I know, but I believe in sit down dinners. I grew up in a home without a television. The idea of filling a paper plate to go sit in a living room and stare at a box seemed odd at worst and illogical at best.
The table was the center of the home.
Without any other source of entertainment, dinner conversation becomes an art form.
I learned more about our family, our beliefs, our politics, our relationships, and our God at the dinner table than at any other place in our home. And it was a fairly passive way to learn. There were no lectures or even family devotions. But we entertained many guests, casual and formal at our dinner table. I watched my parents confer value and compassion to others while we passed simple dishes of fried chicken and mashed potatoes, always topping off the meal with the standard dessert of high quality ice cream.
For the most part, we kept that tradition alive while the children were small and our eight foot-farm table did the trick. But this year, as one of the twins gets married, we add the eleventh adult to our number. It is time. Time for the ten-footer.
I discovered it in a store nearly a decade ago. For a long time the only large tables I could find tended to be extravagant dining room suites for homes much grander than ours. But then I saw it. I didn’t have the resources to get it yet. But I dreamed. Usually when I dream, I wait too long and it goes away. But not this time. Finally, I placed the order and waited impatiently for delivery.
Yesterday, as I was anticipating the long awaited arrival of this decade long dream. I started to get a little nervous. What if it didn’t fit well in my space? What if it my dreams were better than the real thing? What if my attachment to this idea of table didn’t stand the test of time?
My pastor husband coined a new phrase in a sermon recently that sparked something in me. He was asking us if our relationship to God is more than a “college crush.” Many folks in social media are lamenting the short-lived nature of college kids’ commitments to Christ. Vital college ministries draw students to God only to see many of them wander off as they leave college and enter the real world. This generation lacks long-term commitment in a lot of areas: faith, marriage and careers. And perhaps much of it stems from a concern that faith, marriage or career will lose its luster over time and they desperately want to avoid attaching to the wrong thing.
Luster-loss is a given.
But newness is not the test of value. What is worth hanging onto when the new wears off?
I was a little worried that my table fetish would be a college crush. But I don’t think so.
The new table has arrived. It is just as great as I imagined. It beckons me to sit and stay awhile. It begs for great conversation with some of the women I meet with regularly. It calls for a large and loud family dinner with all of our children and in-laws. It is perfect. And when it isn’t new anymore, I will love it anyway. Out of stubbornness, if nothing else.
My table is the product of a longstanding desire to continue my mission of discipleship. I don’t NEED a great table to do it, but this tool will enhance my efforts. Everything about it suggests longevity.
That’s what I want my ministry to embody. Substance. Longevity.
So I will pull out my pottery mugs, my real dishes, my heavy silverware and have conversations that matter. I wish I could share a cup of coffee with each of you here. This table calls me to sit and stay awhile. And as I stay awhile, whether writing a new study, blogging my latest musings, or engaging in lively life-changing conversation, I will know this table was a good decision worthy of my long awaited dream.
What are you dreaming of and how will it enhance your mission?
If it is a God-shaped dream, be stubborn.
And when it comes, love it.