I’ve been reading Eugene Peterson’s memoir The Pastor off and on for the last couple of weeks. It has been a delight. In the
book he tells a story of a time that he and his wife Jan were invited to speak at a retreat center in Texas. Jan spoke to a group of women about hospitality and raising children. One of the women asked, “Do you have any pearls of wisdom that you can give us for raising our children?” Her response: “Have a family meal every evening.” She went on, and this is good stuff:
“There are no ‘pearls’ out there that you can use–no scripture verses to hand out, advice to guide, prayers to tap into. As we live and give witness to Jesus to our children and whoever else, we are handing out seeds, not pearls, and seeds need soil to germinate. A meal is soil just like that. It provides a daily relational context in which everything you say and don’t say, feel or don’t feel, God’s Word and snatches of gossip, gets assimilated along with the food and becomes you, but not you by yourself–you and your words and acts embedded in acts of love and need, acceptance and doubt. Nothing is abstract or in general when you are eating a meal together. You realize, don’t you, that Jesus didn’t drop pearls around Galilee for people as clues to find their way to God or their neighbors. He ate meals with them. And you can do what Jesus did. Every evening take and receive the life of Jesus around your table.” (emphasis added)
Jesus didn’t drop pearls. He ate meals. The point of this post isn’t necessarily to encourage you to make sure you are eating daily meals with your family, whomever your family is at this stage of your life, but I would encourage it. The point is instead to see that often in life and ministry we want to know “the point” or “the principle” or “the answer” to help us be “more”. More productive, more effective, more successful, etc. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing, in fact it is often a good thing. But real life is found not in taking and applying principles. Real life is found in eating meals, passing the potatoes, both proverbial and literal and sharing stories. We live in an era that offers many substitutes for presence. But may we remember that they are all hopelessly inadequate.