Last week I had the opportunity of visiting with family in Louisiana. Growing up my parents would send my sister and I during the summers to visit my mom’s side of the family. For that I am grateful. Today, Louisiana is still one of those places for me that allows me to find rest, focus on what matters and reconnect relationally with relatives that have played an important role in my life.
It was on the last night before my flight departed visiting with my cousin Pat and Lisa, that I thought I noticed something familiar as we sat down for dinner. I wasn’t positive, but the dinner experience was a familiar one that resonated within me as my aunt, cousins, sister and I gathered to eat a pot of chicken and dumplings, cornbread, topped off with my Aunt Wilma’s infamous banana pudding. Yes, it was as good as you just have imagined it to be!
The next morning, glancing it over with more curiosity I asked my cousin Pat, “Is that PawPaw’s table?” He confirmed the hunch I had. Though he had beautifully refinished the family heirloom I recognized the priceless piece of family history that caused me to reminisce about its rich heritage . Priceless not because of its present value, but because of the values that were taught to my cousins and I by my PawPaw around that table.
As I reflected about the many meals, conversations, laughs, stories, and interactions that happened around PawPaw’s table, I realized that the deep connections I have with my Louisiana family, though thousands of miles apart, exist because of what was taught at The Table. If the table could talk about what has been taught, it would tell you this:
We looked forward to being at the table. We didn’t get to sit at the table because we were hungry, we got to sit at the table because we had worked up an appetite. Our PawPaw would wake all of the boys up before dawn and haul us off to the woods to cut, load and haul pulpwood to the mill. Mind you that we were not all teenagers, yet at a young age our PawPaw instilled in us a strong work ethic. It was hard work that caused us to look forward with much anticipation to what Granny would be serving us for dinner. We would not be asking if we could watch TV while we eat, instead we would be fighting to get a seat that we earned earlier that morning.
2 Thessalonians 3:10 - For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.
We honored our PawPaw at the table. You could sit anywhere and on anything around The Table, but there was one seat that was off limits. It was PawPaw’s chair at the head of the table, next to the air conditioner in the window. I can’t remember anyone fighting over that seat. It was the place I believe he observed and enjoyed the wealth of having so many grandchildren. He was proud and he gloried in us!
Proverbs 17:6 – Children’s children are the crown of old men, And the glory of children is their father.
We honored God at the table. We were taught an attitude of gratitude by our PawPaw as we bowed our heads in prayer to give thanks to God before every meal. I wasn’t a Christian until I was 17, so this left an impression on me that there was a God who provides our every need.
1 Thessalonians 5:18 - …in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
We connected with each other at the table. I think of the rich relationships I still have with my cousins today. We don’t see each other as often as we used to, but the connections that started around the table through story-telling, laughter and the like are still as meaningful to me as they were to me back then. There is nothing that revives my soul as much as reconnecting with those relationships that were formed around black-eyed peas, rice and cornbread, french fries and sweet tea. It is a different kind of wealth that very few have.
Philippians 2: 2 fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. 3 Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. 4 Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. 5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.
More occurred around that table than I have room to write, but these are just a few things I learned at the table. In contrast I think about our busy lives and how many tables including mine are a showpiece rather than a centerpiece of family interaction and connection where values are transferred from one generation to another.
What stories would your table tell if it could talk? Would it have anything to say?