The family gathered for an event. A celebration. A favourite meal delighted in. Cake, songs, all the trimmings. There was a seat for everyone around the table. None were sent off to the “kids table.” Conversation flowed in and out of topics. Each thought was wondered about, commented on and entertained. There was room at the table.
Recently, I was privileged to see a dramatization of the story of the prodigal son. Three characters: a younger son, an older son and a father. I was most struck by what the father said. “There is always a place at my table.”
I couldn’t shake that thought as my Father repeated it in my head. “There is always a place at my table.”
To be honest, I don’t live that way. I relate too well to the older son who begrudges his younger brother and ignores the love the father wants to lavish on his children. I willingly ignore the love the Father is wanting to shower on me.
Instead, I often attempt to hide. I squish myself into corners hoping that I’ll be invisible. And yet, I’m hoping in my heart of hearts that someone will notice me. I’ll stand on the outside looking in glancing past the empty chairs and the ones on the stacks in the corner that are begging to be pulled up to the table. And I’ll miss it. The Father could be standing right next to me, holding out His Hand, waiting for me to put my tiny one in His, and I’ll leave my head bowed as a way to shout my unworthiness. I keep forgetting that there is no way for me to earn His love. Nothing I could possibly do that would measure up to some invisible standard. His love is undeserved, unending, compassionate and gracious, it abounds in vast reservoirs that are meant to flood the deepest reaches of my soul. I only have to put my little hand in His and raise my eyes to be flooded with His passion for me. There is room at the table.
The table doesn’t end. When my family gathers together, the extra leaves are brought out. The table gets longer by necessity to accommodate those that are coming. While there are only so many leaves that can be added to my table, His table knows no bounds. It keeps stretching until every person can pull up a chair. No one’s asked to share. None are sent elsewhere or even squished in. There is room for all. Lots of room for all. I, too often, think that by putting myself in the corner, it will be enough. Rather, I’m not asked to find an uncomfortable spot to join the table, but rather to pull up a chair and fit in. That’s His intention and desire. To have all the spots filled and to keep on adding more. There’s no end to the chairs that are meant to be added. There is room at the table.
Some in my family have the gift of cooking amazing meals. Food that feeds the stomach even as the soul is fed by the conversation around the table. That’s my Father’s table too. There is never a shortage of food on the table to be shared, enjoyed, even delighted in. There is bounty beyond measure. Provisions that make the most elaborate feast I’ve attended pale in comparison. Seconds are encouraged! The Father doesn’t set out the tiny plates either. Rather He brings out the dinner plates, the ones that encourage the guest to fill up, sit down awhile and enjoy. His bounty knows no end. He expects us to dig in, to enjoy, to dine. He keeps calling us back too. There is room at the table.
So, why do I miss all of this – the love, the welcome, the feast? Sometimes I choose to be too busy with all of the other pieces of my life. I keep myself so occupied that I can’t hear His call, His welcome, His beckoning for me to come in and sit awhile at His table. It’s not that He didn’t call, it’s that I choose to ignore it.
Often I tell Him that I’m simply too unworthy to merit a place at the table. That I have to “fix” everything first and then I’ll pull up a chair. However, I don’t know when I’ve ever succeeded in “fixing” anything! I usually muddle it up worse than it was in the first place in my vain attempts to make things better. If it’s my measuring stick, or anyone else’s, I’ve missed the point in the first place. His measuring stick has more mercy, grace and forgiveness than I could imagine. He sees the Blood of the Lamb covering me. He simply asks me to walk in, grab a plate, fill it up, join the feast and stay awhile.
Too often I choose the path of isolation, wallowing in my own misery rather than being part of community. I was never designed for this. The introvert in me screams for times of quiet, noise of my own choosing, fewer conversations. But I wasn’t built to do life without the blessings of family and friends. Those who walk with me, beside me. Sometimes I’m prodded into new adventures. I’ve been cheered up great mountain cliffs and coaxed out of deep valleys. They have dried my tears and brought me great laughs. They were meant to be part of the journey, a part of the feast, an essential part of the celebration.
So, will I pull up a chair at the table? Will I boldly walk into my Father’s house? Will I make myself at home? There is room at the table. There’s never not been room at the table. It’s a matter of what I choose. His arms are wide open, He’s been calling me home, to His table.