Thou preparest a table before me…my cup runneth over. Psalm 23:5
Above the cook top in my kitchen, a sign hangs with a quote from Lord Byron. It reads: “much depends on dinner.” The sign started off as a joke – a little irony directed at the Martha Stewart mindset that anything less than the perfect pork roast might unhinge the cosmos – but as time passed, it became less a witticism and more a manifesto.
When our kids were younger, I remember thinking that family dinners were a tool to bind us together for the time we lived under the same roof. I thought dinners would help Jeff and me raise our children to adulthood with good dialogue and good nutrition. Family dinners were a snap back then. Now, four adolescents and their accompanying schoolwork and schedules makes shared meals more of a challenge, even with our notoriously stingy approach to activities.
But I’ll continue to fight for family dinner around our table. It is where little heads learned to bow in prayer, little hands learned to serve one another, little voices learned “please” and “thank you” and how to take turns in conversation. It is where we learned to read the Word as a family and to talk about how it changes us. More and more, it is where we are all still learning that we would rather be together than apart.
Friendships may wax and wane, as this year’s best friend may be next year’s acquaintance, but family – the relationships worthy of our deepest investments – remains constant. With family, overlapping experience is not a fragile thread but a strong cord, binding us together and lending us the strength we need to navigate the years ahead.
And that’s why much depends on dinner. Though work, school and activities pull us in different directions, nightly dinner is our chance to sit down together and strengthen the cords of family. Dinner is the time we gather to share not just a meal but the stories of our day, our victories and losses, our observations and questions. These conversations may happen at other times, as well, but dinner is the time of day when biblical community consistently takes place in our home.
I hope that we build at our dinner table a bond that holds not just for the 18 or so years in which we share the same roof but for the 60 years after those – years during which our children navigate marriage, children of their own, job successes and failures, moves. Yes, much depends on dinner because dinner deepens our dependence on each other. It binds us together for the long haul. And we need each other for the years ahead.
I am coming to realize that there is only one shared table in this life more holy than that table in my kitchen. This lesser communion we gather for each night whispers of that other table – the breaking of bread, the sharing of truth, a nightly remembrance of what matters most – but its gaze is fixed not backward but forward; it’s not a sacramental meal but a sacred meal. Tonight we gather as parents and children, but one day we will gather as brothers and sisters. Tonight we hunger and thirst for food, but one day our ultimate hunger and thirst will be satisfied. Tonight we give thanks together around a kitchen table, but God willing, one day we will give thanks together around a banquet table in the presence of the Lord.
I want my children there. I want my children’s children there. So, yes, much depends on dinner. No coach or choir director or church program or career supersedes this ritual. Whether we dine on chateaubriand or cereal, this nightly intersection of our lives means strength for today and hope for tomorrow. We will not grow weary of meeting together. A table is prepared for us. This is the place where we are fed.