Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Setting the Table

Not that long ago I had little fingers and not-so-nimble hands that clamored up to the table for a meal, hoisting themselves into "big boy chairs" to participate in the evening ritual of eating dinner as a family.  Not that long ago I carefully set the table with an excess of napkins and some kid-friendly plate, rounding out the table with a plastic cup with a lid to prevent spills.  I went to great lengths to find cute plates that looked exciting or enticing to the boys, probably in some misguided thought that a plate with a monster on it would make eating asparagus more appealing.  We have Transformer placemats and kid sized silverware and stacks of unbreakable cups.

In a moment of reflection this morning while putting these plates away into the cupboard, I had a flash of conviction. As silly as it may sound, God can talk to you in the simple things too.  I had spent so many years protecting things from getting broken or ruined because of little fingers and little hands that I had made the world seem unbreakable to my children and in some small way let them believe I didn't trust them with the bigger things, the breakable things.  The great irony here is that the plates we used when they were little were in a give away box three moves ago because all the moving and movers had left half the set chipped or broken.  I hadn't let them use them because they were of value to me and yet now they don't even fill my cabinets. 

I read somewhere that the difference in my generation versus my grandparent's generation is we don't see the value in keeping the old because we're always interested in getting the NEW.  It is true, isn't it?  Go on E-bay and search for an iPhone 4 if you don't believe me.  She was one of 8 - the only girl with 7 brothers.  She tells me they had their squabbles but never to the degree that you hear of today - they were family and were good to each other, end of story.  I was visiting with her last fall and talking about how dysfunctional I believed my family to be.  There are 6 of us; 4 from one marriage and 2 from another; 3 boys and 3 girls.  Our family story couldn't be more different if I tried.  I rarely if ever speak to any of them, we don't live near each other and we are not familiar with each other's lives in a way that makes us familiar at all.  We are so fractured that "family" doesn't seem like a good word to describe what we are...or maybe therein lies the brokenness in our culture, what is family today?

My family is me and the three guys I share this house with.  My family is my best friend in Mississippi and my college friend in North Carolina.  My family is friends I have loved in Ohio, North Carolina, Maryland and Tennessee, friends I do love here in Oklahoma - that is who my family is to me.  If you ask my Grandma, she'd say her family is her FAMILY and her friends are her friends.  Her family is who she sat around the table with and once the table was set, they gobbled down whatever their Mom had cooked on the breakable plates and never once complained about asparagus because it was food and they were hungry.  Her Mom didn't buy plastic plates or cups and if they broke a plate, they broke a plate.  They were taught not to fight over things or toys because things and toys were scarce.  They set the table, sat around the table and that was where life happened in her home. 

One of my most sweet memories of childhood was sitting around the table to eat dinner as a family.  The place of honor at the table was the seat adjacent to our Dad and across from our Mom.  Joe and I fought over that seat almost every day.  We would talk about our day, laugh, be scolded for our choices, hear about what our Dad did at work that day - life happened around that table.

The three handsome guys I live with, we do the kitchen table thing in our house too.  Not as often as I'd like, but we do set the table, talk around the table and ask to be excused from the table. Not as much life happens around the table as I'd like either.  We are usually operating at a hurried pace trying to eat in time enough to get to the next activity and I still put those plastic plates on the table as if somehow the monster plates will keep them small, protecting them from something be broken.  We replace things that get broken with something new because it hurts to see them sad because something is broken.  Convicted again.  My Mom always told me "life isn't fair" and I didn't get it as a kid but I sure do now.  I don't feel like a parenting failure, but I do know that I have spent more than my fair share protecting them from brokenness and going out of my way to make sure nobody ends up sad...and try as I might, I could never keep the world out enough to prevent the brokenness and sadness from invading our home. I couldn't stop them from seeing that life is not fair, try as I might.  The newness always wears off and things do end up broken, that doesn't mean that life is over nor does it mean that everything is replaceable. 

Today, I am giving away the monster plates and the plastic cups because it is passed time that they know I trust them enough to live in a breakable world.  They have lived through many moves across thousands of miles, lost loved ones that made their heartache, left behind friends knowing that they would probably never see them again - I think it is passed time that I give them the credit that they can survive in a breakable world.  I have prayed over them and hovered over them when they have felt brokenness, witnessed tragedy, felt great grief.  They know and understand that GOD is the healer of our breakable world.  They know that they have a soul that cannot be broken by the world because GOD has promised to be faithful to them, even in brokenness.  They know that some things in life are irreplaceable.  They know that the irreplaceable things are not things at all - but most of the time, the irreplaceables in life are the people.  They also know that brokenness can mean irreplaceable relationships can be lost. 

I wish I had my china here - because tonight, I would set the table with that instead of the plastic plates. 

God speaks to me in the biggest moments too, but I am ever so grateful that he speaks me in the little and simple ones too.