I love preparing food and serving it. I love people enjoying what I have made. I love looking at cookbooks and watching those numerous cooking programs, especially MasterChef. I even enjoy eating, too!
But one of the things which is very precious to me seems to be under threat these days - and I wonder whether it is wise of us to give it up so easily. I’m referring to eating together around a table without the television on and maybe even the phones left on the bench or at least turned to ‘silent’.
For me – and is it only me? – meals represent a sort of climax of the day. They give the day its meaning because they signal the moment when we can pause, enjoy what is before us, give God thanks for his provision and talk. Yes, talk. At this point I can hear some of you saying, ’You must be joking!’
But how else can we properly relate to each other? Well, I know that it is important to do things together, that is true. Building something, playing a game, going somewhere, cooking, playing sport all these things help create relationships and keep them going.
But I think that there also needs to be a moment when we face each other across a table and chat. Eating and drinking is sufficient of an activity to give us a shared experience and a reason for being there. But the talk is the essence of the matter. And if we do not keep our relationships in good repair by talking, we will soon be isolated.
I realise this seems an impossibility when our children are pre-schoolers, and really all you want is for them to eat - but forming family habits lays the foundation for the future.
Not only that, but by the evening meal everyone is tired and wants to relax by sinking into themselves via the TV, and after all there’s no arguments or complaining if everyone’s watching the TV rather than having to talk to each other. Children become engrossed with electronic games which they can play endlessly on their own without relating to others. We can be regarded as old-fashioned, but at least let’s think of the advantages of sharing food before we abandon it. I remember those meal times when I was glad it was over it was so chaotic. At a later stage, we had to have topics ready to discuss so the conversation wouldn’t deteriorate into one thing and another.
There is one other thing about this. No it’s the same thing but a bit sharper. Sharing the same food at the same table at the same time in the same company requires fellowship, and fellowship often requires forgiveness. Sometimes when we come to the end of the day we bring all sorts of baggage to the dinner table, but a meal without love is a misery and empty. Just sitting down together can focus our problems and will not let us simply put up with them. Of course eating together will not solve everything, but it gives the problems a chance.
Meals too, give us the opportunity to celebrate and mark those significant moments, which then go down into the annuls of family history. In our family there are so many birthdays we have ample opportunities to get together. Even my ‘apple crumble’ has become a family tradition!
Family life is a precious gift from God, never to be taken for granted, and our eating together marks a moment in the day when we can stop, thank God for his love and care for us.
‘Better a dish of vegetables with love, than a fattened calf with hatred.’ Proverbs 15:17
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