As we look back over our lives, it’s often the routine, daily moments of life that shape us more so than the one-time, memorable ones. And it’s through this lens that I have a plea for all of us – let us not lose sight of how important it is to regularly eat together. This is a call for:
Families to prioritize eating together.
Married couples to prioritize eating together.
Roommates and housemates to prioritize eating together.
Single friends to prioritize eating together.
And I don’t mean just at the same time, or in the same building. I mean at the same table, device-free, where there is eye contact, good conversation, and uninterrupted time. In the book, Trained in the Fear of God, Dr. Timothy Paul Jones writes:
God created us, as relational creatures, to eat together and to talk to one another; some of the most important conversations we ever have come at meal times. It is not coincidental that some of the most important conversations that Jesus had about the significance of his death were around a table-looking at one another, eye to eye, and eating together.
There are a lot of decisions we need to make with our schedule day to day and week to week, and with that there are things we need to sacrifice. But don’t sacrifice regularly eating together. This is not a blog just for everyone else – this is one for me too.
I have a confession to make: I enjoy eating alone. In fact, I prefer it, and I didn’t realize how deeply rooted this desire and habit was until we had children. You see, when Rochelle and I were married, we were on different schedules – I got home from working in the city around 6 or 6:30 and then wanted to work out before eating, so I would often eat dinner at 8:00pm or later. Rochelle (understandably) wouldn’t want to wait that long – so she ate before I did. I got used to eating in front of the tv, or with my phone on the table next to my plate. No big deal, right?
We justified it by saying that when we start a family, we’ll start eating together every night. Then we started a family, and it still didn’t happen with any regularity. Turns out I really enjoy eating with some technology in tow, like listening to a podcast or scrolling through twitter. Turns out that the routine, daily choice to not eat with Rochelle shaped me more than I thought and reversing the ship would take some work. Turns out I was more selfish than I thought I was.
So believe me when I say that I know it’s hard to establish this rhythm. Even with a desire to do it, many of you are dealing with long work and commuting hours, loads of sports commitments and other extracurricular activities for both you and the kids, not to mention church committees and groups we want to be part of. But, I will say this – if it is physically impossible with your current schedule to share a meal with your family or spouse regularly, then perhaps it’s time to take a hard look at your schedule.
What might a next step look like? If you never eat together with the people you do life with, what would need to happen to do it 2x a week? If it happens 1-2x a week, what needs to happen to make it 5x a week? If dinner together is becoming increasingly unrealistic, what about breakfast or lunch? This is an area where it’s worthwhile to be creative and intentional in our thinking.
Let’s say you do already eat regularly as a family, or you plan on making some meaningful changes in the near future to make it a reality. How can we make the most of this time? It’s often where a meal comes and goes, and I feel like I wasted it with superficial and meaningless conversation. How should we approach our meals together?
Again, Dr. Timothy Paul Jones has something for us here:
Our conversation in table-talk may vary from the mundane to the profound. It is appropriate to talk about the weather and the big game and other shared interests. It is also appropriate to talk about the gospel and repentance and God’s faithfulness to us as a family. It should not seem awkward or out of place when we talk about weighty and substantive things. Here are some questions that may help us to form one another through table-talk:
What was your day like?
What were the highlights of your day?
What was hard for you today?
How did God provide for us today?
Have we honored one another today?
How can I serve you tomorrow?
These, and other questions like them, can prompt gospel-centered conversations that help us to reflect meaningfully on the daily evidences of God’s grace toward us.
God created us in his image, which includes being relational in nature. And if that is the way God wired us, then it only makes sense for us to intentionally carve out time and space where we can regularly sit down with those closest to us and, well, relate.
So let me encourage you dear brother or sister in Christ, as someone who is alongside you in the midst of this struggle day to day and week to week, to establish and maintain the rhythm of regularly eating together. It’s something worth fighting to create and sustain, as I guarantee it will shape you (and those around you) and grow you in the long run more than you could possible realize.