5. Come Back to the Table!

God’s Invitation: Come Back to the Table

Be still. Know God. Slow down. Look for God. Listen to Jesus.   Sit in God’s presence and soak up his wisdom, grace, and glory. Ask God to heal the brokenness you see all around you. Learn to take the time to enjoy more moments in the company of other believers. Be still. Know God. Peter puts it well, “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” (2 Pet 1:3).

As a rule, we are perversely unskilled in being still before God despite being so good at sitting, as our growing incidence of obesity demonstrates. Being sedentary is not the same as being actively still before and present to God. Do you remember the last time you were still but not mindfully absent, silent but not sleepy, fully present to God and alive to his presence? You may be out of practice.

For those of us in a perpetual time crunch, we may need to consider the culture’s aggressive choke-weeds that strangle our schedule and keep us from seeking God’s kingdom first. To recognize the grace of God’s eternal presence, we may need to purge our lives of too much time spent in vain, and to shun the lie and idolatry and vanity of the notion of time ‘management’. It is not that we don’t love God; we just don’t have time to look for him, listen to him, or live for him, and our attempts to manage our time, to ‘schedule’ God into our days are often futile.

Because of our busy lives, we are out of practice in being still before God, and this throws us out of rhythm as well. The practice of being still before God on a regular basis helps us understand that even for those who are alone for extended periods, we are not really alone. There are ways to yield that time to God’s presence, giving ourselves to service, starting perhaps with determined and prolonged periods of prayer. Even from a position of poverty, whether financial, physical, or spiritual, we can minister to others.

 Thus, when we are bored or lonely, we can pray. We can recite God’s Word, buried in our hearts after years of practice. We can sing hymns of praise. We can write or email notes of encouragement to others. We can sit by a window and watch God’s creation and marvel at its rhythms and beauty. If we are able, we can make someone a meal or a plate of cookies. We can recall of all the ways, over our lifetime, that God has directed and protected us, and praise him for his care. So, when time drags (as it must for nearly all of us at some point in our lives), the first question to ask is, “How can I live out this time wisely for God’s purposes?”

In many ways, life is a long training session, and we train now to one day exchange the temporal for the eternal, not because we must, since our salvation is assured apart from our works, but because we can. A musician practices scales. A basketball player practices free throws. An artist practices by making sketches, a cook practices a new recipe, doctors practice medicine. In the same way, our faith calls us to practice a faith-full life, and to teach and encourage others to do the same.

It has taken me years to learn how to respond to this question, “How are you?” My typical introvert-induced answer is a quick and shallow quip meant to fend off further conversation because I tend to freeze up at the thought of becoming involved or being asked to do something. Really, how selfish is that?

But, how we ask and answer the question is important. Asking others how they are should not be a customary social nicety. Rather, its motive should be that you care about the lives of the people in your midst. So, I am learning to belay the automatic response of “fine” or “busy” and instead to give a short but accurate answer of how I really am doing, to thank the person who asked for inquiring of my well-being, and, when warranted, to ask for prayer for myself or a particular situation. The next time someone asks, “How are you?” stop yourself from automatically responding, “Busy,” as if that’s virtuous, or, “Fine,” when you aren’t really fine at all. Tell them you’re a faith practitioner in training to become a saint. It’s a path that starts with yielding your time and attention to what we call faith practices.

Where time is concerned, and no matter our particular circumstances, we must all be willing to risk changing our attitude, and approach and appropriation. Yielding our time to God takes practice. It takes intention. And sacrifice. Not only that, we easily weary of trying so hard to live out our faith in these busy times.

Are you tired of the harried tempo of your life? Are you hungry for a slower pace? Do you wish you had time to share a wholesome meal at home with loved ones on a regular basis?  Is food bland because you frequently eat alone?   Solomon wrote, “I delight to sit in his shade, and his fruit is sweet to my taste. He has taken me to the banquet hall, and his banner over me is love.” (Song of Songs 2:3b-4). Christ, our apple tree, provides shade, a banner of love for IMG_0338shelter, and the fruit of the Spirit. Rest in him. Let Christ be a sanctuary from the world’s insanity; partake of the fruit of his peace, renewal, joy and love, and let each shared meal bring to mind his promise of a glorious wedding feast when he returns. Don’t you think you are ready to turn away from the time famine that starves your life of meaning and nourishment? Come back to the table.

God lives outside of time, but for his good reasons, he gave us the minutes, hours, days and years as important boundary markers for lives. With each passing year, we recognize more fully how short an earthly life really is. God also gave us hunger, thirst, food, and one another. So, in very real ways, sharing meals each day helps us learn more about the gracious and abundant ways God delivers us from our hunger and thirst. Our time on earth is for knowing God and delighting in him, and he gives us ample time to study and put into practice what matters. If you are out of practice, there’s no better time to start than today.

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