Bulging with pregnancy, a sweet young mama of a toddler, was rocking gently on my Colorado front porch showering me with endless questions about how to raise vibrant, healthy children.
“Please tell me the secret of nurturing such a close, faith-filled family,” she asked.
As I pondered her words, stories of years and years at our table began to flood my mind.
My four children and one spouse had returned from their homes all over the world for a few cherished days to be together, and my friend’s family had joined us for dinner.
If my table could talk, it would tell much of the story of our family life.
I had purchased our table the first year of my marriage.
Searching for it diligently on the cobbled streets of Austria where we were missionaries, I discovered it in the dusty corners of a second hand shop, priced as a bargain. The carved dark walnut legs that I spotted on top of a pile of musty smelling antique furniture attracted me.
My Viennese treasure played a star role in the life of our family.
Though I am sure it had many stories to tell of meals served on it before I ever found it, I could not have known what a stage it would set for so many strategic life events of our family.
So much of our shared lives have happened around that old piece of wood. Our table has lived the history of Clarksons through every season, every move. In fact, I’m sitting at it now, waiting for the kettle to whistle so I can enjoy a cup of tea.
If my table could talk, I know it would tell of moments like these— toddlers happily munching on bits of food and Cheerios scattered over plastic place mats.
Birthday breakfasts with cinnamon rolls, mugs of hot tea, and morning presents companioned by words of love and appreciation.
Warm soup and stories shared on cold winter nights with neighbors, friends, strangers.
Sunday afternoon teatimes with James Herriott’s animal stories read dramatically.
Countless lively discussions about morality and worldview, about the goodness and love of God, as we filled up growing teenage bodies with satisfying food.
Souls grow by seasons.
As we celebrate the passage of time by establishing and commemorating joyful traditions, honoring milestones (however small), cultivating a taste for greatness through the scripture shared, books read, memories made, and faith lived out, we also form a path for growth and development.
Godly legacies are built, in other words, when we bring the life of Christ to the table through the grace of loving relationships and intimacy shared moment by moment.
This is the essence of table discipleship.
But doing it well requires both vision and commitment.
What is my vision for my lifegiving table?
I set the atmosphere by intentionally accepting each person there as a gift, as one to imprint with the love, the touch, the goodness of Christ.
I picture that I am nourishing souls and spirits with both physical food and the everlasting food of the Word of God.
I am providing grace and peace through gently accepting whoever joins us at the table.
I am speaking hope forward by articulating my confidence in God’s love, faithfulness, and kindness for each person.
I am establishing a spirit of graciousness by welcoming all who come as guests of the loving Host who serves all and makes us all whole.
I picture that I can be an instrument through which God brings life, beauty, and redemption to the limitations of my marriage and my family—because, in His spirit, I am filled with the life that always brings light to the dark places and redemption to the broken places.
Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty” (John 6:35). And this knowledge, too, informs my vision for table discipleship.
As I serve those around my table, am I offering them the real Bread of Life that will satisfy their souls—my Jesus?
Am I satisfying the thirst they feel for a life that is meaningful in light of knowing their Creator?
Am I willing to give and even sacrifice until my home and table reflect the elegance of my Designer, the artistry of His hand, the loveliness of His presence?
These questions fuel my vision for the mission of table-based discipleship.
If my tables could talk, I think they would remind me that I have an important work, a strategic task to engage my heart.
They would remind me that I can persevere in this work by His tender encouragement and my own commitment to celebrate each and every day, each person, each interruption, each mundane (or not so mundane) moment as He has given it to me.
Yet as the hostess of such a table, I have to prepare my heart to generously give in a way that brings life to the souls of others.
Making my heart ready to serve when I sit down requires a daily choice of mind, heart, and commitment. The cultivation of the life of Christ at table doesn’t just happen. It comes through planning and intentionality.
Relationship is at the heart of all influence, good and bad.
When people feel loved and accepted, affirmed and believed in, they are more willing to receive the messages I feel are important to share.
The lifegiving table isn’t really about furniture, after all.
It’s about making our tables centers of nourishing comfort and acceptance, places where we invite others to come, just as they are to share life with us. It’s about making our tables centers of nourishing comfort and acceptance, places where we invite others to come, just as they are to share life with us.
It’s about being willing to see all who come to our tables through the lens of how we might serve them.
Each person, like my old table, has a history and some scars and blemishes—physical, emotional, psychological.
But just as my table could be cleaned up and beautified with lemon oil, elbow grease, and a couple of fresh flowers, each life can be improved with a listening ear and a cup of tea when one becomes the conductor of life to all who will sit at their table.
“Friendships can be built by our intentionally purposing to serve others through our words, our meals, our conversation, our leadership.” ~Sally Clarkson
By Sally Clarkson, author of The Lifegiving Table
Make your table a place where your family and friends long to be—where they will find rest, renewal, and a welcome full of love.
Beloved author Sally Clarkson (The Lifegiving Home, Own Your Life, Different) believes that meals lovingly served at home—and the time spent gathered together around the table—are a much-needed way to connect more deeply with our families and open our kids’ hearts. Food and faith, mingled in everyday life, become the combination for passing on God’s love to each person who breaks bread with us.
In The Lifegiving Table, Sally shares her own family stories, favorite recipes, and practical ideas to help you get closer to the people you love . . . and grow in faith together.