How often do you sit down for a meal with your spouse?
No phones, no TV, no other distractions. Just you two and some food.
Us? Sometimes. Husband leaves for work before I’m up in the morning, so that rules out breakfast. We work in different parts of town, so getting together for lunch would cost more than one hour. In the evenings, a lot of distractions vie for our time: working out, volunteering, kickball, invitations to play trivia, Netflix . . .
The New Testament has a ton of stories about Jesus and his disciples eating. Why? Clearly the Last Supper is a big deal, but the Bible also records the disciples feeding the 5,000 (probably more like 10,000 since women and children were probably there but not recorded), the disciples eating on the beach with Jesus after a storm, eating at Lazarus’s house, eating at the “certain man’s” house….
What is the big deal about eating?
These guys must have done a lot other things together: Travel, walk, sail, teach, share sleeping accommodations, go out on the town, visit their families, fish, work, joke around. Why aren’t those activities recorded as much?
Maybe I am not understanding it because these days, a lot of our meals are not formal sit-down affairs. I eat a granola bar or drink a Slim-Fast for breakfast in my car on the way to work, and lunch at my desk. Husband sometimes eats lunch with his co-workers in their office, but also on the go during the drive between work sites. He and I try to eat dinner together, but it doesn’t always happen because one of us is working late, or going to an evening event, or has decided an evening nap is necessary. When we do eat dinner together, we sometimes eat at a table, but we sometimes eat on our couches while watching a movie, not really talking or even facing each other. Some evenings we just want to sit and not think about much.
Then I remembered why we try to make dinner an event: It’s time and space to relax and catch up with each other.
We have to pause to eat every day. So meal time can be an opportunity to pause and be with each other on purpose.
It’s said that strong families make a point of eating together. The food nourishes your body; the conversation and interaction nourishes your mind and your relationship with the other diners. My family ate dinner together almost every night when I was growing up. Dad’s not home from work yet? We wait for him. Brother has Cub Scouts at 7? We eat before he has to leave. You’re being a sullen teenager and you think you’re going to blow off dinner time and stay in your room? Think again, and get your butt to the table.
My parents always knew what was going on in my and my brother’s lives in part because we made time every night to talk life out. We kids knew we could have an open dialogue with them during dinner about major family decisions and events, too.
Now, Husband and I are trying to maintain this tradition and use dinner as a time to check in, catch up and discuss the important things going on in our life. Sometimes that means watching the latest trending Internet video, and that’s okay. (We’ve never claimed to be a high-minded couple.) But sometimes that means going over the really important things like our finances, our families, and our goals. Meals are also one of the only activities we can still do with his mother with dignity. She has trouble walking, seeing, and speaking. But she can still sit at the table and eat, and we can still include her in our family meal time ritual.
Maybe Jesus and his disciples used meal time as a way of strengthening their family, too. I’d like to think the conversation went something like this:
So, what did everyone think of our time in the temple today?
Yeah, that widow who gave all her savings on the altar is a saint.
We’re still planning to leave for Galilee tomorrow at 8, right?
Zacchaeus, please take your elbows off the table.
Maybe mealtimes are included in the Bible because nourishing your relationships through 1-on-1 time is just as important as nourishing your body through food and drink.
Sharing a meal reminds us that we share life as a family.
It’s probably not a coincidence that Jesus introduced His new covenant (in Matthew 26) through a metaphor about feeding the body. He took the act of communing over a meal to a new level with His symbolic act of communing as members of His family.
From Hebrews 9, we consume a symbol of Christ’s blood to symbolize that we are purified, cleansed, and redeemed from the inside out by Christ’s sacrifice of himself. In the old tabernacle and at the base of the mountain, the priests and Moses would sprinkle animal blood on the exterior of things: altars, people, and tablets, to literally and symbolically cover those things with forgiveness and with God’s promises of provision and protection. But those were only temporary fixes using second-class material. They couldn’t satisfy for long.
(Much like my morning granola bar in the car doesn’t satisfy my body or mind nearly as much as a hot meal cooked from scratch with my husband, and enjoyed at a weekend pace.)
Now, through the practice of communion Jesus modeled, we become renewed from the inside out. Though we still do it regularly, it’s in remembrance and reverence of the ultimate sacrifice Jesus only had to make once. Not out of obligation like the high priests did once per year.
– late 14c., from Old French comunion “community, communion” (12c.), from Latin communionem (nominative communio) “fellowship, mutual participation, a sharing,” used in Late Latin ecclesiastical language for “participation in the sacrament,” from communis (Source)
How appropriate that we recognize our status with Christ as members of His family through an act that nourishes our bodies and encourages being together.
And really, the being together part of meals is the part I like best. My current favorite time of day is when Husband and I are sitting on the deck, plates pushed back and stomachs full, relaxing in our chairs as we take in the fading daylight and think ahead to what we want to do that evening. Texts go ignored. The TV’s not on. Emails could be piling up in my inbox, but I don’t care.
It’s time to reunite with each other, recharge, and reaffirm that we’re a family.