Day 2: For Shared Tables

Hospitality means primarily the creation of free space where the stranger can enter and become a friend instead of an enemy. Hospitality is not to change people, but to offer them space where change can take place. It is not to bring men and women over to our side, but to offer freedom not disturbed by dividing lines.

— Henri J.M. Nouwen, Reaching Out: The Three Movements of the Spiritual Life

During my first year of marriage, I found myself often at the kitchen bar in the white house that shared our backyard. She and I would get up early, work out together, and then she would make us egg sandwiches while her baby slept. We chatted easily about anything and everything, egg yoke dripping down our chins. It was a tiny table, a simple offering, a rich gesture.

It seems a table, a bar, the floor will do. So will an egg, tea, leftover cake. The point isn’t the content of the offering, the point is the content of the heart. She wasn’t hurried or anxious or too busy to offer a space for freedom and growth and joy.

When we make space at the table for others, we make space for our heart to expand. We stretch, we listen, we empathize, we extend a hand. When space has been made for me, I have known healing, kindness, laughter, freedom, God. 

And aren’t we grateful? For the shared tables we have been a part of, the laughter, the chaos, the sacred space? We can stop and recall that spaghetti, the last minute “stay for dinner”, that backyard bbq and sangria. And as we sit, cozy and grateful, thinking about the tables we’ve shared - we vow to do it more often with those who are easy and those who are harder. Who can we invite to our table, offering peanut butter and jelly and a humble heart?

God, thank you for the shared tables. For the spilled milk and the dripping egg and the laughter and the love and the extra plates and last minute applesauce added to the spread. Thank you for grace, for freedom, for hope in that space. Help us to think of those who need a table this week and to invite them in. Help us to be brave instead of perfect at our offerings.

Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it. Love makes up for practically anything. Be quick to give a meal to the hungry, a bed to the homeless—cheerfully. Be generous with the different things God gave you, passing them around so all get in on it.
— 1 Peter 4:9