Whose Table Are You Sitting At?
Friend, you might not know it, but you’re sitting at a table. You’ve pulled up a seat at one of many tables to which you’ve been invited. Every day, you’re keeping the company and eating the food of the table at which you sit.
There are many possibilities as to which table you discover yourself sitting at, because many have extended their invitation to you. And then there’s the one… the best table… but I’m getting ahead of myself.
Maybe you’re sitting at The Table of People’s Opinion… Sometimes, when it seems that everyone is happy with you, you love your seat here. When all seems well and their approval keeps coming, it feels like this table is the perfect fit for you. You feel satisfied with the applause, cheery smiles, compliments, and “likes” that are being served. For a while, this seems to be a nourishing feast.
The thing is, at this table the food goes rotten all too quickly, sometimes – you notice – before you’ve even swallowed it. Before you know it, your brush with human approval vanishes. The people turn out to be fickle…and as quickly as the applause started, it stops. The entree that felt so satisfying in the beginning soon sours in your stomach as many decide that they don’t like you so much afterall. To keep your seat here, you’ll need to bridle who you really are. You’ll be continually checking the people’s thermometer to assess which version of you is acceptable today.
Surely there’s a better place for you…
Or maybe you’ve found a seat at The Table of Fear… There’s great unease around this table, but no one around you knows another way to be. Even when good food is served, you can’t enjoy it… because what if you look stupid while eating it? What if the other table guests think you’re weird? What if they reject you? What if you somehow fail at this gathering? What if you end up abandoned? What if you end up losing your seat here?
The thought of all the potential disasters immobilizes you. Your true desires have long been drowned under the weight of the “what ifs.”
This can’t be the only table with an open seat…
Maybe you find yourself at The Table of Personal Achievement… If you’re naturally driven, you probably accepted the invite to this table without a second thought. As long as you’re working on your next degree, up for your next promotion, or on the brink of one-upping another table guest, you find your seat here quite cushy. When awards and recognition are served up, you eat until you can barely breathe.
The only problem is, the glory of each accomplishment soon fades. And though you just ate like a glutton, you’re amazed at how soon your stomach starts growling from the emptiness. Just when your seeming feast has shriveled up, the person sitting next to you gets their big break…making your achievement feel forgotten. If you want to keep your place at this table, you better set your sights on the next goal. There’s no time to rest here, not if you don’t want to lose your seat.
Something about this “meal” leaves you wanting…
Perhaps you’ll discover you’ve been sitting at The Table of Shame… You never wanted to be invited to this table, but the invitation came for you. And since you didn’t think you had received any other invites, you took your seat here. This meal never even had the illusion of being fulfilling. The food here is scarce, and even when it is served, you feel like you don’t deserve to eat it. So you sit there hungry. The table guests are no fun either. Everyone seems constricted, frozen, and fearful.
So often, you want to leave this table…but something invisible and heavy makes it feel like you’re chained to your seat. Every time you think of trying to break away from this horrible meal, this intimidating voice convinces you of how impossible it would be…and reminds you that you have no other invitations.
Surely, somewhere out there, there’s a better seat than this…
Maybe you find yourself at The Table of the Establishment… You’ve landed the seat you were taught to aspire to… at the table that appears to be impeccable…among the who’s who of dinner guests. For the longest, sitting here made you want to pinch yourself. Graduating from that prestigious school, marrying into that family, moving into that neighborhood, having that much in your bank account, being networked with that group of people. The meal at this table is five courses, with the best presentation you can imagine.
But by the second or third course, you notice something disheartening: this gorgeous spread doesn’t taste nearly as good as it looks. The food looks filling, but it’s not…and everything tastes a little like cardboard. You never would have guessed it, but this never-ending “feast” doesn’t nourish. Things feel strangely lifeless. And after all these courses, you’re still hungry.
There has to be more than this…
Maybe you’ve pulled up a seat at The Table of Comparison and Competition… Your ‘yes’ to the invite was easy once you realized how much better you seemed to be doing than most of the other guests. Through the first course, all was well. But then, as conversation continued, you realized these people weren’t trailing as far behind as you thought. It turns out one of them is smarter than you… and one of them has a house much bigger than yours… and the two right beside you seem to have a happier marriage than yours, and more talented kids. All of the sudden, your initial pride dissipates into severe discontentment.
Down the table, you can still spot a few guests who clearly can’t hold a candle to you… but they’re too far away for your comfort. If you want to be happy at this table, you’ll always be on the lookout for who’s trailing you, and on a constant pursuit to catch up with whoever you’re trailing.
There has to be a more peaceful place to sit than this…
It could be that you’re sitting at The Table of the Past… Your seat here keeps you in the days of way-back-when… when the injustice happened to you, when your hope was shattered, when you were betrayed, when things fell apart, when you felt abandoned, or when you sank in the humiliation of failure. The guests sitting around you and the food being served are all familiar to you, and most of the time, you take comfort in that.
Sometimes, though, you feel a draw to live in the present…but your table mates have nothing to say about that; they just keep pointing you back to the past. And while you like the familiarity of the food, you finally start noticing that it’s stale…some of it even moldy. If you want to stay here, you better develop a taste for the old, the decaying, and the smelly. You can forget about anything alive and fresh.
Surely you can find a better table than this…
Or it could be that you’ve been sitting at The Table of Religion… The invitation to this table promised you life: a seat near Jesus himself. So you gladly came to the table. When you arrived, the table guests were full of such eloquent words about Him… and they taught you exactly how to read His word and how to busy yourself doing things for Him. For a while, you were enamored with it all. But now, it’s dawned on that you still haven’t seen Jesus at the table. And then you realize how odd it is that the guests here have to set the table themselves, prepare the food themselves, and do their own clean-up. And while the food is okay, it isn’t nearly as good as you thought it would be.
So you start to ask those around you where Jesus is, and when you’ll get to know Him rather than just talking about Him…and when the food will get better. You’re met with disapproving glares. One responds that you just need to read the Bible more diligently, while another offers you a few “principles” to try. No one around you seems to be bothered by the fact Jesus isn’t at the table. Something is terribly off here…
Suddenly, in the distance, you spot the One you’ve been looking for. Jesus locks eyes with you…and motions for you to come where He is. So while everyone’s busy cleaning up, you sneak away and run over to Him. He leads you down an unusual path, and just when you’re wondering where in the world He’s taking you, you come up on a breathtaking banquet table.
Without even being told, you know… It’s
The Father’s Table
You look with awe and can’t help but to step closer. Seeing it up close, you realize all the other tables have been poor attempts to mimic this one. Lots of guests are already seated, but you can clearly see some open spots. How amazing would it be… you think to yourself. Then you see something that stops you in your tracks. The open seat in front of you has a place card with your name on it! The whole time you’ve been sitting at that other table, He’s had a seat saved for you here.
Upon sitting down you notice all Three are present here – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Already, the Table of Religion is a distant, laughable memory. The guests sitting around you are as diverse as can be. They each used to sit at lesser tables too. As conversation and feasting get underway, your heart breathes a sigh of relief. You belong here. You’ve finally come home.
At this table, you’ve become part of the family. And you sit under a canopy of love, peace, truth, joy, and rest. There’s no striving to keep your seat here; the Father Himself saves it for you. And the food seems to get better with every single bite. But beyond the food, you’ve found something here that every other table lacked: a place where you’re truly known, you’re loved for who you really are, and you have no need to perform, one-up, or hide.
Each guest brings unique power and beauty to the table, and each one is irreplacable. Why didn’t I sit here sooner? And without Him even saying it, something inside you knows that this feast will never end.
As you keep discovering your place here, the old tables start calling your name, and strangely enough, you may consider going back to one of them. That’s the thing about the Father’s Table. He’ll never force you to come to it…and He’ll never force you to stay. But Darling, don’t go back. Don’t ever leave your seat at the Father’s Table.
No matter who chooses to live their days at lesser tables, no matter how many years you spent in the wrong company, no matter how many invitations you receive to go back to the way you used to live… Don’t ever go back. Stay seated at the Father’s Table where you are loved, wild, and free. Where truth is experienced, not just read. Where people’s appraisal can’t penetrate His shield around you. Where dreams are conceived and life grows.
“Listen, listen to me,
and eat what is good,
and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.”
Photos by Brooke Irby