[Furnishings Part Two]
Meal experiences are some of life’s best. Think of holiday gatherings, wedding rehearsal dinners, sitting-down to find mom made your favorite dish. And there are times when good food and good conversation with good friends turns into lingering hours—enjoying each other long after the food is gone.
Dinner tables can also be a place of tension and feelings hurt by mumbled comments, slicing accusations, or cold-shoulder detachment. Few things cut like unkind words from a family member.
“So David hid in the field, and when the New Moon feast came, the king sat down to eat. He sat in his customary place by the wall, opposite Jonathan, and Abner sat next to Saul, but David’s place was empty. Saul said nothing that day, for he thought, “Something must have happened to David to make him ceremonially unclean—surely he is unclean.” But the next day, the second day of the month, David’s place was empty again. Then Saul said to his son Jonathan, “Why hasn’t the son of Jesse come to the meal, either yesterday or today?” Jonathan answered, “David earnestly asked me for permission to go to Bethlehem. He said, ‘Let me go, because our family is observing a sacrifice in the town and my brother has ordered me to be there. If I have found favor in your eyes, let me get away to see my brothers.’ That is why he has not come to the king’s table.” Saul’s anger flared up at Jonathan and he said to him, “You son of a perverse and rebellious woman! Don’t I know that you have sided with the son of Jesse to your own shame and to the shame of the mother who bore you? As long as the son of Jesse lives on this earth, neither you nor your kingdom will be established. Now send someone to bring him to me, for he must die!” “Why should he be put to death? What has he done?” Jonathan asked his father. But Saul hurled his spear at him to kill him. Then Jonathan knew that his father intended to kill David. Jonathan got up from the table in fierce anger; on that second day of the feast he did not eat, because he was grieved at his father’s shameful treatment of David.” (1 Samuel 20:24-34 NIV)
The 1 Samuel 20 passage is definitely a case of drama at the dinner table. David is hiding, Jonathan is deceptive, and Saul is seething. The situation is not helped by Jonathan’s lies or Saul’s angry name-calling. These three share a rocky history; the eruption at this meal began bubbling long before.
Are you feeling better about your family? Aren’t you glad no one has thrown a spear at you…yet? But even if your drama is a milder version of this drama, it still hurts and grieves. It can show up at the table, in the car, on the phone, in a text, on vacation, on the way to church, while shopping—basically anywhere.
Here are three encouragements for honoring Jesus while dealing with the leading actors or actresses in your family drama
Respond with calm. Do not match their furious tone. The Bible says that “a gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1) It’s okay to ask questions or to challenge accusations, but do so with a measured volume and word choices that will not escalate the situation. If the setting is not right, ask to continue the conversation privately or later. If someone is bullied, you should speak up to defend the weak. Yet if the angry person is your parent, respond to them with honor and respect.
Respond with compassion. There is a story behind their anger. Somewhere deep inside, they are afraid or ashamed or wounded. When the family member erupts loudly or under their breath, stand back to ponder what empty place they are desperate to fill. This will not resolve the drama, but it will help you start praying for them. (Matthew 5:44) It will prompt you to show them grace—favor and kindness undeserved.
Remake your family culture. If you are unmarried and still under the family of your upbringing, take the courageous step to address the drama. Gather the group (after you hide the spears) and say, “I’d like us to talk about how we can get along with each other a little better.” This might not be well-received and it might result in a temporary flare-up. But life is short—too short to let hurt feelings, grudges, un-forgiveness, or miscommunication sour family life. It might lead to a new era of honest expression, healthy conflict resolution, and deep joy. If you grew up around drama but now you are married with a family of your own, work hard to establish new patterns of communication with your spouse and children. Your present family is not doomed or destined to be exactly like your earlier family. In the Scriptures, Saul threw things and Jonathan stormed-off from the table. Take the lead and refuse to permit similar habits for dealing with conflict.
The family is an environment where God will teach you many things about the ugliness of sin and the beauty of grace. It is the first realm where you get to model Christ-like love and patience.
Spend a few minutes praying for each member of your family. Then ask God to show you small and big ways to love and serve your family. The next time you are together for a meal, thank God for the ones who sit around that table. If you are slightly more daring, take a step to head-off drama. Speak specific words of encouragement and thankfulness to each person sitting with you. Jaws might drop, the food might get cold, but empty places deep inside might be filled.
Do you have any positive stories to share about favorite dinner table experiences or family drama that improved? Reply below.
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