This is 31 conversations from the front porch day 28 – when love is no longer being served – you can find the rest of the series here.
Day 28: Doing the Hard Things – Getting Up From the Table
“You have to learn to get up from the table when love is no longer being served.” -Nina Simone
Relationships are always headed in a direction. They are constantly moving towards health and wholeness OR they become something we need to release to find health and wholeness. It is interesting witnessing and participating with families gathered around the dining room table – my own, my friends’, my family’s. This is sacred space for families.
A family that allows you to peer into that dining room table space they share is: 1. either healthy with nothing to hide and living whole towards one another or 2. completely aware of the mess they bring together – and they do not care who sees OR 3. completely clueless regarding what you are about to witness.
The dining room table is where you will discover the messy places in a family.
- You will find the roles they each play.
- You will smack right up against expectations.
- You will bear witness to neglected places.
- You will find prejudices, bigotry, hurt feelings, and shame.
- You will find laughter and inside jokes.
- You will find the family’s oral history.
- You will find prayers.
- You will discover blessings and curses.
- and perhaps if you are lucky you might even find love.
I remember one such family’s mealtime when everyone gathered around the table took turns mocking, laughing, and finger pointing as they bone-picked clean one of their own. It is not easy being the family’s designated donkey. It is very painful watching a family destroy itself from within. I remember leaving the house after witnessing all that ugly and crying. I remember body shaking sobbing because there is not anything I could do to warn them. I learned over time that no matter how hard I would try there was nothing I could do to stop where they were headed together.
There is a direction we are headed together – does it lead to life? Or does it suck the life dry?
When you stand back one day and wonder when it all went bad, when did you lose parts of your family, when did you lose pieces of yourself, why did people feel like the only option they had was to walk away? Perhaps you will find a bunch of moments colliding together – those moments that informed why someone had to get up from the table? Because love was no longer being served there.
I remember inviting a friend whose family was going to be out of town for Thanksgiving – to stay and eat with us. My family is loud and wild and demanding of one another. I think she experienced a bit of culture shock sitting down to that meal with us. She never said anything about it – which made me think perhaps she was embarrassed for me.
I wasn’t embarrassed. I could see our royal messiness and I loved us anyways.
That is how it is marrying into a family too. You get to witness all the family gatherings around a table. And sometimes they welcome you with open arms and other times they all sit around that table judging you, whispering about you when you are gone, while you are judging them right back. Frankly it is messy. They are hoping you won’t see their ugliness too clearly and you are just hoping for a place to fit in. But I think that if love stopped being served there for your spouse – you won’t find it there for yourself either.
You have to learn to forgive yourself for not being able to fix what was already broke.
No matter what table you happen to find yourself at this coming holiday season – remember that sometimes it is OK to get up from the table when love is no longer being served.
Exercises For Your Own Front Porch Exercises
Thoughts: The holidays, weddings, and funerals bring out the messiness of family. With colliding expectations, old & new wounds, people feeling like this is the appropriate time to say what they need to say… God it can be awful. The only thing I know to do is concentrate on these people I have been given right here. I am not responsible for the actions of Uncle Fred, Grandpa George, or Great Aunt Harriet. I am responsible for me. And I pray that what I bring to the table is always love.
- What are some ways you can bring love to the table this year?
- Are holidays stressful? Why? Who brings the drama?
- How can you serve love and not be run over?
- Do you have a favorite dinner table memory from your childhood, raising your own family, or in your present?
- How can you make dinner time – sacred ground in your home? (Turn off the electronics, read a verse or quote, share a moment from your day, remember a story from your family’s oral history making sure to include the younger ones in the telling of what they remember, etc.)