I like to call this time of year the season of gathering at the tables. We have Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve all happening over the next two months. Which means between now and the end of the year, families will get together, friends will make plans to celebrate, and even our workplaces, our kids’ schools, and our churches specifically design events to draw people in and together. Some of you might even have a family birthday sprinkled in there, too, like we do!
And this doesn’t even include eating with family and friends after Christmas dance recitals or band concerts or that end of the season soccer-Tball-football pizza party thing.
Can you see why I call this the season of Gathering at the Tables?
All of these get-togethers remind me of what Jesus told His disciples in Luke 22:15 He said: “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you.”
This wasn’t just any old Passover either. It was the Last Supper. Jesus’ final time gathering at the table with His disciples and He EAGERLY looked forward to it. The Message translation puts it this way:
“You’ve no idea how much I have looked forward to eating this Passover meal with you.”
Gathering with Friends & Family at Our Own Tables
In theory, our own gatherings are fun and full of laughter. In theory, we, too, eagerly look forward to sitting around the table with others just like Jesus did. In theory, our time with family and friends or at our child’s school holiday party brings us peace and happiness by filling us up. In theory, we would all be able to say to everyone at the table, everyone in the room: “You’ve no idea how much I have looked forward to eating this meal with you.”
In reality, however, for many of us, gathering at the table can bring up anxiety, dread, stress, or past hurts and betrayals that trigger our own behaviors that we aren’t proud of or ones that we’ve been working hard to change or to break generational cycles.
In reality, we don’t always eagerly desire to gather in the same room with these people much less eat with them or invite them into our homes or step foot into theirs. Sometimes we’d rather skip the occasion or leave people off the invitation list to avoid seeing the ones who stir up unrest in our hearts and minds.
But sometimes we can’t. Sometimes God intentionally places you at the table right next to them. So, how can you look forward to gathering together? And how as a mom can you model for your children how to love others well despite past hurts or even current behaviors?
At the Last Supper, Jesus shows us how.
How to Respond to Everyone at the Table with Love
At that Passover, Jesus welcomed and treated everyone with love at the table. Every. Single. One. Even the one He knew had plotted to betray Him. Even the one who would deny knowing Him. Not once. Not twice. But three times. Even the ones who would fall asleep later in the Garden AFTER He asked them to stay awake and pray with Him…Jesus welcomed and showed them all love. Yep, even when an argument broke out at the table! Did you know that happened? The disciples were trying to one up each other as they argued about who was the greatest. Guys this sounds like a typical holiday meal for many families. And Jesus showed them love.
Want to know how Jesus did that? Take a listen.
John 13 starts “Jesus knew the time had come for Him to leave this world and go to the Father. He had loved His own who were in the world. He loved them to the end. Jesus knew the Father had put everything into His hands. He knew He had come from God and was going back to God.”
Right after that in Scripture, Jesus washes the feet of His disciples. Every. Single. One.
Jesus knew His authority. He knew His identity. We just read in scripture: “He knew He had come from God and was going back to God.”
Jesus knew His past was with the Father. And Jesus knew His future was with the Father. He rested, He stood in confidence of that…of the knowing of who He was…where He came from and where He was going.
And, Jesus glorified God the Father in the present by loving the people gathered at the table to the end.
What would it look like in your own life if you did the same when you gathered at your own tables? What if you remembered Jesus’s authority in your life? If you remembered your identity in Him? If you remembered how much He loved you on the Cross and why you made the choice to secure your future with Him? What if you stood in confidence of who and whose you are because of Jesus?
Standing Firm in Your Identity in Christ
When we approach the table from a posture of restoration…one that rests securely in our identity in Christ, we can more easily glorify God in our present, we can more easily respond in love to the people at our tables…even the ones who know exactly which buttons to push. Even the ones who have betrayed us, disappointed us, hurt us, not been there for us when we needed them most.
We can more easily glorify God in our present, because it becomes less about who is at the table and more about WHOSE WE ARE at the table.
Let me say that again: We can more easily glorify God in our present, because it becomes less about who is at the table and more about WHOSE WE ARE at the table.
Based on Jesus’ example at the Last Supper, remembering whose you are can help you respond in love towards all the people God places at your table.
So, what does this look like in real life? How can you apply this? Well, you can start by identifying the person or people who stir up unrest in your heart and mind or you feel stressed or anxious or angry around. Create space in your schedule to seek God’s help before you sit at the table to be able to treat them with love.
But don’t stop there.
Start praying now for His help in remembering whose you are. Start praying now for help glorifying Him in the present. Start praying now that even if arguments break out at your table, you will respond in love. You are going to need His help!
You can try using this simple prayer that I am going to pray over us all right now as we end this episode:
Father, in this season of gathering at the tables, help us to focus on You and our identity in Christ so we can more easily treat everyone in a way that glorifies you in the present. Thank you for your Son who secured our future with You and gives us the confidence to approach you boldly for your help. We can’t do this without You.
As a writer and speaker, Lisa’s heart beats for encouraging women, supporting parents in their role as a child’s first and best teacher, and pointing people to Jesus. Lisa lives in north Atlanta, with her husband of 25+ years, Clay, and their two daughters, Emerson and Ellery. To learn more, follow Lisa on Instagram, visit her website or order her devotional, Simplifying Rest.
(This is an edited transcript of “Gathering at the Tables,” Episode 9 of The Carpool Line Podcast. This podcast from Family Christian gives moms a few minutes to connect with God so they can better connect with their families. Here’s how to listen.)