by Chandra Crane
Sophia is the Greek word for Wisdom, and Propel Sophia seeks out the voices of truly wise women and asks them to share worked examples of how they express faith in daily life. Pull up a chair at Sophia’s table, won’t you? There’s plenty of space.
Our kitchen table is a little bit magical.
It’s a beautiful piece of furniture, first of all. With its intricate inlaid wood pattern, it’s one-of-a-kind. There’s also rumor that it has matchmaking abilities; several folks who first met while sharing a meal around our table are now happily married.
But most importantly, it has hosted people from all walks of life. It has been a gathering place for so many.
Black folks. White folks. Folks with mixed ethnicity.
Democrats. Republicans. Independent voters.
Men, women, and children. Single, married, widowed, and divorced. Straight and queer folks.
Christians and non-believers. Protestants, Catholics, and folks in Pentecostal traditions.
Vegetarian folks and voracious meat-eaters. Folks both quiet and talkative.
Our table has been a place of much conversation, laughter, and joy. It’s also been a place to lament, cry, and even argue. We do a lot of life around our kitchen table. And it mostly works out well.
But sometimes, even this mythically unifying table isn’t up to the challenge of bringing unity to warring factions.
It’s an important life habit to me to sit at the table with a variety of people, having sometimes difficult conversations, seeking to understand and extend grace. But over the past couple of years, conversations surrounding hot topic issues—politics, sexuality, religion—have seemed resistant to the charm of our kitchen table and the bread we break over it. Not a few times in the past year have I had to leave the table because I was so angry or hurt that I just couldn’t stay.
And as I sit at that same table now, typing away, I’m struck by the realization that sometimes, all we can do is get up, as carefully as we can, and walk away with as much dignity as we can muster. Sometimes, I have to step away, for just a little while, so that I can rest before I re-engage. This is more than a coping mechanism, it’s a profound privilege.
Because sometimes, walking away from a kitchen table means walking into the arms of Jesus. When I lift my eyes up to the hills, and focus on him who brings true, diversified unity, I realize how important it is to feast on Jesus and his word.
Sometimes we need to be jolted out of our habits and our comfort zones. When we find ourselves gathering at the table of Jesus, we realize just how solid Christ’s nourishment is. How life-giving his eternal waters are. When we sit at God’s table, we might be able to see things more clearly.
And sometimes we have to crawl, in the desert, like Hagar did (Gen 16 and 21), ready to die; only to find God waiting to feed us. To care for us. To remind us that he sees and loves us.
Even more distressing is that in this on-going season of quarantine, our “tables” now have to metaphorical. We’re not only trying to “reach across the aisle,” we’re trying to reach out through cyberspace to create and maintain deep relationships.
Our family had a tradition of Monday night “family night” open-invitation dinners. A year later, those evenings feel like a mythical memory of times of fellowship past—something J.R.R. Tolkien could weave into a fantastical tale of joy and belonging.
Now it’s just our immediate family sitting at our kitchen table. There are fewer people to joke with, fewer people to disagree with. But also fewer people to help me grow, to help me see the image of God in people perhaps very unlike myself.
I miss extending an open invitation to friends and family to eat with us on a Monday evening. To gather around our kitchen table. And I wonder, when will God bring us back together again? Will it be in this life, or the next? Is he coming back soon and very soon? How can we serve, and rest, and discuss deep things and tell corny jokes with others when we can’t even sit around a table together anymore?
It doesn’t always feel very comforting, but I have to believe that there’s something important in the longing. Before the pandemic, I needed to listen to my longing for rest and to step away, if for just awhile. And now, in this new reality, my longing for connection, companionship, and community tells me something valuable, too.
Because maybe when we long to share a good meal around a table, we realize just how much we need to long for Jesus. How much we need to hunger and thirst for righteousness, to be in the presence of the Lord himself. We believe, Lord—help our unbelief (Mark 9:24)!
Until we’re able to dine again in person, I’ll wave at loved ones from my little corner of the internet. Asking, how are you friend? Getting enough to eat? Feeling the peace and presence of the Holy Spirit? Feeling loved enough to come to Jesus with all the worries and cares and fears and yes, even arguments?
And they’ll wave back saying, we’re exhausted, but making it. And some sweet day, we’ll all sit at the kitchen table of the King and feast together.
Until then, we wait. Apart, but still drawing together at the table of the Lord.
Chandra Crane is a Multiethnic Resource Specialist for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and author of Mixed Blessing: Embracing the Fullness of Your Multiethnic Identity, releasing 12/15/2020 from InterVarsity Press (https://www.ivpress.com/mixed-blessing)
You can follow her random thoughts and the antics of her family on Twitter and Instagram @ChandraLCrane.