We all know that eating together is a good thing.
We may even acknowledge that it’s a Holy pattern that God created specifically to create community.
In the Bible, meals are mentioned at least 109 times so I would guess they have a major role to play in our lives today. Meals are eaten across the world, and in every culture, everyday.
The food that’s eaten, the way it’s eaten, and how it’s cooked or prepared may be vastly different across the globe, but the meals all have one thing in common. It is designed to sustain us physically, emotionally and spiritually.
I had two advantages when it came to meal times when I was younger.
The first is, that I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s, and we raised our children in the 80’s - mainly in the U.K. Fast food was not easily available. Eating fish and chips out of newspaper while walking on the seafront was about as exotic as it got in the UK until the arrival of McDonalds.
Now I love McDonalds, and Mike took our little kids there for breakfast on many many Saturday mornings.
The second is that when Mike started out as a Pastor we really didn't have any spare money.
What we would have spent on fast food would have fed us for a week if we cooked and ate at home. I still can make a pound of ground beef make at least 3 good meals for a family of 4.
So, we always ate at home, around a table facing each other. For a while when I was about 8 my parents decided get rid of their old Formica kitchen table and to build us a trendy new breakfast bar. My Mum designed it, my Dad built it, and it lasted only a few months before my parents realized it meant that all of us in one straight-line perched on bar stools facing the kitchen wall was no good for either our table manners or our family conversations.
The same is still true today. Facing each other eye to eye with our difficulties and joys from the day shared and discussed around a table while sharing food changes us.
Why then, do we find it so hard to keep mealtimes as a priority it in our own families amid competing schedules and electronic devices?
Why do we find it hard to invite others to join us?
Let’s face reality.
You have to plan it.
You have to fight for it.
You have to want it.
You have to persevere.
You have to be predictable.
It’s the same as going to the gym or taking up a new interest.
There are many ways to make the whole process easy, and I have worked at making it as easy as possible.
First just try! Invite the neighbor, the co worker, the friend, to join you in a meal you were already cooking. Draw up a chair or a stool or even a wooden crate and say ‘join us as we eat’ and share what you have with others.
A survey from 2014 saw a big rise in those living alone to above a quarter of the population and it’s now is at 27%. Loneliness is a huge problem in today's society.
I am encouraged by the movement of farm to table and have noticed that in Starbucks and other restaurants they have introduced the long rectangular tables reminiscent of a farmhouse table, jogging our memories to earlier simpler times.
They know what we also must recognize, that eating together changes people. It’s a gift from God that enables us to create families and communities, so let’s use it.