“Better a meal of vegetables where there is love than a fattened calf with hatred” Proverbs 15:17
Families grow stronger around the dinner table. Now I’m not talking about physical strength as a result of a balanced diet. That’s a given. I’m referring to more than the eating of a meal and the nurturing of our bodies. I’m a firm believer that families grow stronger when the veggie dip is surrounded with discussion, when the fork-fulls of lasagna are interspersed with laughter, and when dessert is topped off with devotions. As Proverbs 15:17 puts it, “Better a meal of vegetables where there is love than a fattened calf with hatred.”
Of course the dinner table will never be a place for families to grow spiritually stronger unless we aim to make it special. We’ve done this in our home by establishing a few guidelines.
To begin, we’ve recognised that despite the fact we all lead busy and demanding lives we expect each other to be at the dinner table. Of course there will be exceptions and we certainly aren’t legalistic about it. But as a family we treasure our dinner time together and try to avoid conflicting activities or appointments. We also don’t allow the telephone to tyrannise our meal. Unless there’s a really good reason for responding to the phone we leave the answering machine to deal with incoming calls.
We start each meal by sitting down, holding hands, and thanking God for His provision. Sometimes we sing a grace together. On other occasions we take turns praying. During the course of the meal we share the joys and challenges we’ve encountered through the day. It’s a lively time. We joke, debate, address our concerns, reminisce, celebrate, sometimes cry, but mostly we just have fun.
Toward the end of the meal one of us leads devotions. It certainly isn’t stiff or starchy. When Johnny leads, he likes to get up from the table and mime a Bible story. In recent months Matthew’s been reading to us from a book about Christian martyrs. Christie usually shares an insight from her Teen Devotional Bible and tells us how a portion of Scripture has impacted her. Nana sometimes shares about something that happened when she and Dad were working in international evangelism. Karen often sings a chorus and gets us singing (which we all love to do), or takes God’s Word and applies a spiritual truth. I usually read one of the articles I’ve recently written and use it as a basis for discussion. Our devotions are never dull. We’re creative, varied, aware of each person’s felt needs, and responsive to the movement of the Holy Spirit. When we’re done, we close in prayer, praising God and interceding on behalf of one another.
Which is why dinner is often the highlight of my day. For it’s at the dinner table that I’m reminded that God gives us our daily bread for both physical and spiritual nourishment. And it’s around the dinner table that I can look into the faces of my family and be thankful for each one.