My dad was an avid gardener, and my mom was a wonderful cook. With six children, our dinner times meant family packed around a large, wooden trestle table and a vast spread of food. Vegetables were plentiful, along with meat, potatoes, and bread. Friday nights were fish sticks and Saturday always meant homemade pizza using sauce from tomatoes my mother had canned in clear mason jars that lined our pantry shelves. There was always enough at the table.
One evening after a long day at school followed by homework, I was hungry. Really hungry. As we squeezed together along the benches, dinner was served family-style as usual. Unashamedly helping myself from the lavish abundance on the table lovingly provided for us, one of my sisters scowled at me and harshly barked, “Stop being such a hog!”
From that point on, what used to be a joyful experience of partaking with gratitude, became a self-conscious and tense ritual of taking as little as possible for fear of being judged as selfish, regardless of how hungry this adolescent boy was.
So, years later, when I was seated at a breakfast table lavishly provided by my sister-in-law, I timidly helped myself to the large bowl of scrambled eggs, piles of bacon, and stacks of buttered toast. After the previous day of heaving cinderblocks for my brother and her brother, as they rebuilt a basement wall of her parent’s vacation home snuggled in the Poconos, I was ready for breakfast.
Mindful of the childhood edict from my sister, I took small portions, finished, then silently sat. Though I was still hungry, I folded my hands in my lap, staring longingly at the abundance on the table. As the joyful family banter came to a lull, my sister-in-law looked at me and with warmth and kindness, lovingly said, “Eat up, Jon. Help yourself. There’s plenty here and you’re going to need it for the work that is ahead.”
I can’t tell you the relief I felt. The inner wrestling was over. Grace spoke and I partook. And it was deliciously amazing.
Decades later, as I sat journaling at the table on my back deck, those two contrasting memories drifted back into my mind. I was burnt out, numb, and broken from a long season of ministry. Honestly, I was trying to figure out how I had allowed myself to live for so long at the unsustainable pace of allowing the life-draining tasks of ministry to outweigh the life-giving practices of nurturing intimacy with God.
Those two table images brought such clarity amidst the mental, emotional, and spiritual fog that sapped my strength. As I began to process those two experiences, the painful revelation emerged that my faith journey had been tempered by that angrily spoken dinner-table edict, “Stop being such a hog.”
God began to gently show me that I had spent a lifetime forfeiting grace that could have been mine. How? By allowing my intimacy with Him to be tainted by a self-conscious inner ticker-tape monologue of, “Take as little as possible, there are other people who need God’s grace, too. And frankly, He is rather busy with people who are struggling with real problems, so stop bothering Him and quit being such a hog.” I had lived with a poverty mentality of “not enough” and “you’ve already taken more than your fair share of God’s grace.” Of course, I never would have said any of that out loud... but it was a poisonous undercurrent flowing through the water table in my mind.
The reality was that I missed God’s heart toward me so beautifully echoed in my sister-in-law’s intentional kindness, “Eat up. Help yourself. There’s plenty here and you’re going to need it for the work that is ahead.”
Can you relate? If so, I invite you to join me on the journey of healing. Hear the words of Isaiah 55, and don’t miss the lavish abundance we are invited to receive. “If you are thirsty, come here; come, there’s water for all. Whoever is poor and penniless can still come and buy the food I sell. There’s no cost – here, have some food, hearty and delicious, and beverages, pure and good.... attend to Me and eat what is good; enjoy the richest, most delectable of things. Listen closely, and come even closer. My words will give life, for I will make a covenant with you that cannot be broken, a promise of My enduring presence and support...” (Isaiah 55:1-3). More simply put in the words of Jesus, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. If anyone believes in me, rivers of living water will flow out from that person’s heart, as the Scripture says.” Then John parenthetically adds this explanation, “Jesus was talking about the Holy Spirit” (John 7:37-39a).
Weary one, come to the Table. The One who relentlessly loves you has prepared a lavish supply of everything you need for life and for godliness (2 Peter 1:3-4). Are you hungry? “Eat up.” Are you thirsty? “Help yourself, there’s plenty here.” Are you weary? Partake of God’s unwavering strength. Are you frustrated? Receive God’s saturating peace. Are you confused? Wait for His clarity. Do you need loving boldness to speak? Ask for selfless courage.
Precious one, you’re not a hog. Pull up a chair and unashamedly partake of the grace lovingly prepared, lavishly provided, and joyfully offered to you. There’s more than enough... and you're going to need it for all that is ahead. Amen.
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