Table: A Letter to West Franklin
West Franklin Family,
I read this quote recently and found it, not only true, but very intriguing.
“The only place you can go today and take off your mask in public? The table. You have to wear your mask to get there, but once at the table with your tablemates, you take off your mask. The Table unmasks us all, and unmasks all of us.” (Leonard Sweet)
I hate wearing masks, but I love this thought. There is something about being with others at a table when we can just be. Recently I found myself thinking, “How ridiculous is it that we have to wear a mask to the table (at a restaurant) and wear a mask from the table – but are able to remove our mask at the table?” To be sure, it is a bit ridiculous. But I get it. Restaurants are doing whatever they must to keep protocol and provide necessary procedures to keep everyone safe. Just like all of us, they are doing the best they can.
But do you see the unintended, but unique, symbolism here? There is something about sitting down with others at a meal that “unmasks” all of us.
Being able to look at each other’s faces at the table is life giving. Think about it: not only are you enjoying a good meal (hopefully), but you are learning more about those at the table with you. Not all the time, of course, but so often – without even meaning to – our “masks” come off at the table. We just “are.” We are ourselves. We automatically lay our masks down.
Perhaps this is why Jesus so often reclined at the table with others. Nearly 20 times in the Gospels we read of Him at a table with friends, disciples, the curious and the sinners. He loved to be around a table, eating with others (which is why I believe He was Baptist, by the way. . . kidding. . . sort of). Could it be that He enjoyed it so much because of what happens at a meal . . . with other people? I think so.
Laughter. Food. Questions. Eye contact. Tears. Curiosity. Bread. The day’s happenings. Future plans. Dessert. Likes. Dislikes. Hydration method of choice. Bread. Anticipation. Learning. Hard conversations. Fun conversations. Necessary conversations. Random conversations. Bread. Manners. Invitations. The bill. Preparing. Cleaning. Coffee. And, of course, bread.
All these (and probably many more) things happen around a table. There is so much to give, and receive; pour out, and learn; grasp, and be curious about; laugh, and cry; love, and be loved – when a meal is shared.
So what? Three thoughts.
First, don’t forget meal times now that “life” is cranking up again.
One of the many blessings from this pandemic season has been the extra times around the table with my family. What a remarkable gift! But I am beginning to feel the busyness of the evenings creep in. School. Homework. Practices. Games. Performances. Church. We aren’t there yet, but I am beginning to feel it coming on. Though I am all for active and involved children – there is nothing more important than regular time around a table as a family. Let’s remember this and prioritize accordingly.
Second, make sure the media is not your mask.
I’ll be honest. More meals that I care to admit during this season have been in front of the television. I don’t believe it is wrong all the time. But I do believe it can be dangerous if it is, in fact, all the time. Let’s face it – turning on the TV or not turning off our devices at the table can be a way of wearing a mask. We don’t want to have to deal with real life, so we hide behind the mask of television or phone or tablet or whatever. Again, it is not always wrong to enjoy shows together. But if it’s all the time, you could be keeping your mask on while you are trying to eat.
Third, regularly share a meal with others.
Jesus shared a meal with family. With friends. With those He was discipling. And with the “worst” of society. I believe this would be a fulfilling and life-giving pattern for all of us. Of course, have a meal with your family. Go out and enjoy a meal with your friends. Have your small group over for a meal. And get to know those without Jesus (yet) by sharing a meal with them. If being like Jesus meant regularly eating at a table with these groups, how balanced would your “like Jesus” life be?
Right now in Williamson County the only place you can go in public without a mask is the table. Though unintentional by those doing the mandating, there is something to it. The table is where the masks come off.
Hungry to grow with you,