Each day around 5:30 PM, fourteen people, including myself, gather around our extra-large table for dinner. This should not be overlooked for the daily miracle that it is. Three adults, nine teenagers, and two young boys gather together to enjoy a meal as one large family. (I cannot forget to mention the two patient, begging dogs sitting under those two little boys, eagerly waiting for the inevitable scraps of food that come their way.)
This extra-large table is filled with stories and laughter. We often give time for each of us to mention the highs and lows of that day. As we discuss the various conversations, interactions, and occurrences of the day, we encourage each other to identify the various emotions experienced throughout the day, too. And when it is left up to Ezra these days, you better be ready to label five separate emotions and exactly why you felt them.�
We laugh and we grow together, forming bonds and intertwining each one of our lives in holy moments each day, moments set aside for such things. I truly consider it one of the greatest blessings I get to experience in my daily life.
We feast together. With this many people, you need a lot of food. We learn to appreciate the work that goes into a meal. The girls often pitch in to help prep and serve the meal. Sometimes, if we are feeling particularly brave, the girls even prepare the entire meal themselves. And we have learned to pay attention so that we know how to praise the taste and texture of a good fruit in its season.
The family dinner table: a table of grace and gratitude, of story and sustenance.
Sarah and I often tell the girls how we much we want to give to them, how we long to lavish them with gifts and fun experiences, to live in such a way that we can celebrate in the goodness of this life together. It’s such a joy to “spoil” them whenever we possibly can. We long to live each day as if it were a party, and each dinner a banquet.
I love that Jesus’ first miracle was at a wedding, a party. The people there had been celebrating, and were soon to drink up all the wine. Jesus’ mom warned him that the wine was almost out and the people would want more. Jesus had six large stone water pots each filled to the brim with water, which he then turned into wine. Madeleine L’Engle says he did this “lavishly.” I’d have to agree with her. The stone pots each held 20-30 gallons of water. So we’re talking about 170 or so gallons of wine. That’s a lot of wine!
I love this story, Jesus lavishly turning water into wine. His first miracle wasn’t healing a sick child or restoring the sight of a blind man. It was Jesus lavishly turning water into wine for a party, given to people that probably already had their fill. And I love how that makes many people, religious people, uncomfortable.
But Jesus also was lavish in how he was willing to have his own blood spilled out at his death. And that makes many people, both the religious and non-religious, uncomfortable. But that’s ok.
Feasts and parties are everywhere in the Bible. Heaven is often described as a having a huge celebratory wedding banquet. How much wine will there be at that wedding?!
Communion, which is practiced by varying Christian backgrounds throughout the world, also known as the Eucharist, is described in similar terms, and is often seen as a foretaste of that future Wedding banquet. It consists of some sort of bread and wine (often grape juice). This practice is also called taking the “Last Supper” as it is meant to be a reenactment of Jesus’ last supper with his disciples before he was killed. The bread representing Jesus’ body, and the wine his blood.
I love the word “companion.” It’s an old French word with Latin roots that means “one who breaks bread with another.” Breaking bread brings people together. It’s is a unifying act. The fourteen people in my home are all literally companions together each day because we break bread together. We live together, and we love together. Sometimes this reality forces me to pause and ponder just how blessed I am despite living in the midst of a global pandemic. A house of companions trudging together in this unique time, a mini-community. ��
Most days after dinner we pause for a time of family devotions, where we reflect on the deeper parts of our lives. We challenge each other to be vulnerable and honest. After devotions we have family meeting together with a topic that encourages each of us around the table to think critically and to hold each other, as companions, as family, accountable. We make sure to take time to praise one another before we lean into the harder things, where we give feedback about where we all can improve in our behaviors, attitudes, and character.
When life is going well and everything seems to be going just right for someone, one of the girls in my home will say that that person is “living their lavish.” And for whatever reason, even as I laugh about the phrase itself, I like it. Because it’s how I feel. I live a lavish life! I can’t prove it financially or materially, but it’s how I feel deep within me. What value can be placed on laughter? What price can you put on teenagers learning how to live lives of integrity? How much is the insight from someone who has experienced rock bottom worth?
I of course don’t mean to paint an entirely rosy picture of my life or my job. There are plenty of moments (and days and weeks) of stress and ugliness, of disunity and grumbling and ungratefulness. There are often conflicts and consequences. You put fourteen people together in one home each day and that’s inevitable.
But that’s ok. And none of that comes as a surprise. It’s all part of what makes our dinners little holy miracles each and every day.