Writing became one of the most precious gifts to me at 8 years-old. To this day, it is my chosen mode of communicating.
A month or so ago, a friend reminded me of some wise words an author penned about the coveted “table,” how everyone desires to have a seat at the table. How we will fight and claw our way to that table, the driving force being that we want our voices to be heard. That someone who’s sitting at the head of the table would affirm the words we’ve spoken and maybe even utter the words “you belong here.”
I start to think, is this really what Jesus would have me to? Is that how he would want me to use the voice He’s given? That instead of using that voice to bind up the brokenhearted and preach the good news to the poor, I’m using that voice to push my power and privilege to the top? Jesus, is that what you ask of me?
Quite frankly, no.
He asks me to do justice, walk humbly, show mercy. That happens at the kids’ table.
I proudly sat at the kids’ table this Thanksgiving holiday. I’m not one bit ashamed to tell you that my fellow gatherers at the table had construction truck plastic plates, Spongebob Sqaurepants cups, and were only interested in the carb loaded buns at the table. Not the pretty stuff. Not the decadent sweet potatoes with rosemary or thyme. They wanted the simple things. They wanted carbs. And the three older kids-including myself-waited until the adult table was finished passing around the main dishes until we could dish it up ourselves.
Sure, it might not be idea for everyone to sit at the kids’ table. And of course there were moments when I felt left out wondering “what are they talking about at the adult table? is it important? is it about me? are they laughing? what are they laughing about?” I wanted to be in those conversations. I wanted to hear what they were saying. I didn’t want to miss out.
But yet while I was so focused on what was going on at the other table, I missed the mayhem and fun of the kids’ table. One swift movement of trying to pass the green bean casserole ended with me spilling some of the milk in a Paw Patrol sippy cup on the floor. On the carpet. In the living. Where no one else was supposed to eat. But there we were: the kids at the kids table. Sitting in a space where no one else would typically put the kids because spills happen, but that’s exactly where we were. We were messy. We were chaotic. And I’m not just talking about the three older people at the table. But yet we had so much fun! Yes, we had manners. We didn’t drink with our pinky up, but we sat around the table and knew that every person was welcome there. That every person around the table mattered and had a role to play.
I am grateful to be a part of a family where that is the case around the adult table as well but I am well aware that the reality we live in as adults isn’t always that way. Some of our dear brothers and sisters are never welcomed to sit at the table for various reasons that have nothing to do with the Kingdom of God that Jesus talked constantly about. And yet we abuse and taint a calling that Jesus has placed on our lives to make excuses as to why it is only the elite who can have a chair, why we don’t give up our chair at the table to make way for someone else because we’d rather use our power and our privilege than let their voices be heard.
Here’s what I loved about sitting at the kids’ table on Thanksgiving: the adult table could hear us. Of course we could hear them, but we definitely were louder. It wasn’t to be obnoxious. It wasn’t to gain attention (minus me, the 32 year old). It was all of us living into the image and identity we were given by the Creator. And our voices were heard.
To have been given this beautiful picture by the Creator of all good things is nothing short of a gift. I fully believe that this is the picture God paints of the Kingdom and what the Table looks like. Not the table that those in charge have created, but the Table that was created by the One in charge of all things who at this very moment is at work in bringing that table together. Bringing His created sons and daughters together to show the world what it means to love as he loved, to do justice, walk humbly, and show mercy.
I confess there have been moments in my journey where I have fought way too hard for a place at the table and I haven’t paid attention to the table God has already called me to, and it’s not one where power and privilege win but it’s one where His grace and mercy flow freely. I want to usher in the Kingdom of God that doesn’t have it’s citizens pushing and stampeding for a place at the table where only few are allowed, because I don’t believe that’s the table God has prepared for us at all.
Because the Table God has given us all a seat at isn’t perfect. It might even have a paper table cloth and crayons. And some of those crayons might even be broken. Milk will probably get spilled. Some siblings might even argue over who got the fluffiest bun, but rest assured that they will be able to walk away from the table knowing they are for each other and they love each other. We might not eat all the delicacies that the other Table might eat, but we know how to savor and enjoy what it is that’s been placed before us.
All the wise, humble, Kingdom shaking and moving people I know are the ones who are content with not having a seat at the coveted table. They’re content because they know it’s not even about the table. It’s not about a position, power, or privilege. Because the position they’ve been given isn’t to wield power or privilege like a banner but it’s actually a gift given by God to do the real, gritty Kingdom work. These are the ones that constantly invite others to the table, to the conversation, to the Kingdom. They understand that their position is not based on what it is that they’ve done. They also realize that their position was not given to them to knock someone else down to a position that’s lower, but that position was given to them to invite others to the Table, the real Table.
Don’t get me wrong. I will still have my moments when I so badly want to be at the table where it seems like everyone who has any authority is making decisions and handing out responsibilities and assignments to those sitting around the table. That’s my sinful nature. And that’s my first clue that Jesus doesn’t want me to have anything to do with that table. I know the chair He’s called me to and I know He invites me to pull up chair after chair, day after day inviting others to sit around and talk about the Kingdom and how we can bring others to the table. I can’t imagine that God is pleased when His kids are fighting for a place at the table, but I imagine he is incredibly pleased when His kids invite others to pull up a chair or give up their chair instead.
“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.” - Psalm 23:5