Saturday, December 27, 2008

Around the table

We spent some time this afternoon with some of our favorite people.  Their oldest daughter, who is married and living in Chicago (a couple blocks away from Time's person of the year), was with them.  As we chatted, the subject of 'sharing questions' arose.  With this family, and in our own extended families, we've always enjoyed the practice of answering sharing questions.  I know some people who really hate such things, though I can't quite understand the objection.  Do they not want to have real conversations? 

We've had some great tableside conversations with folks, because we've had such questions to focus on.  The one that always comes to mind, however, was with this family we saw this afternoon.  All our children were there, just a few years ago.  Their oldest daughter was already married, our youngest was in high school.  The question posed to us, by my thoughtful friend K, was to imagine where each of us would be five years hence.  It could have gone any way.  Kids could have answered with silly dreams, pipe dreams taller than sky scrapers.  Such questions prompt such answers, often.  But that night (it was our Christmas celebration with them!), it became a holy moment when our son was the first to answer. Living in his head as he does, being earnest as he is, he answered, "I hope I know who I am, what my purpose is, and that I'm living that purpose out."  There was a pause after he spoke, because in his words was the pain of his uncertainty, mixed with the pain of hope.  That answer led the rest of the table, especially the kids, to answer as authentically as J had.  There were grief-laden concerns about studies and finishing degrees, the hopes of marriage (but not too soon, and not if it meant being lost in that marriage) by the unmarried girls.  I spoke--haltingly, reluctantly--about my writing.

When we stood up from the table, we, who already knew each other well, had shared a hundred meals, we felt something new had passed, had moved us closer to being family than we already were.  Funny, I don't know when that meal happened, how many years ago it was.  But I do know that these kids, who were so honest with us, have moved toward those marrow-deep goals.  Four have graduated from college, the next is almost finished.  A marriage is on the near horizon for the one who was cautious about it at the dinner, but has found her soulmate in the years since.  Even the youngest is well on her way to knowing what God has for her--at least in the next season of her life.  And J?  I think he's edging toward knowing who he is.  Or maybe he's just more comfortable in not knowing all the answers as he journeys.

What we want--for them and for ourselves--is that the next few years brings us all closer to maturity in Christ.  It's a journey, isn't it?  No, not just a journey.  What we live, whether we know it or not, is a pilgrimage, a journey with a spiritual purpose.  And each of those 11 people around that dinner table, is walking at a different pace.  The question asked revealed that.  The life lived continues to reveal it.  But what we share--our hopes and dreams--help us to walk it together.

On Christmas Eve, we've begun the tradition of having communion in our quiet home, even if we've been to a communion service.  And we always take our spiritual temperature.  "What's happening with you and God?"  This year, the common theme was community, and its importance in our lives.  And today, I was reminded that the best communion we have is around a table, the table of authenticity, the table of communion. And I think God knew it would so.  He knew when He sat down at a table to commune with His friends, and He asked searing probing questions, spoke mysteriously of the future and His part in it!, encouraging them to continue the practice of sitting down together, eating together, and to 'do this in my Name.'

When we sit, when we eat, when we answer deeply and truly, we are back in the upper room, hosted by our God.  What could be better than that?

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