With vast demands waging war on our time and attention, traditional, pace-pausing fellowship around the dinner table has become dangerously close to becoming obsolete. There once was a time when gathering to connect physically at the close of the day over the fruits of productivity also cultivated social, emotional, and spiritual stability. Family members would grasp one another’s hands and offer words of sincere thanks over a meticulously fashioned meal. What typically followed was a feast of both victual and analytical refreshment. Meals have long been sacred events where connectivity strengthens relationships, and relationship ultimately informs worldview.
It is quite fascinating how a thoughtful and well-prepared meal conceives a close connection. With the passing of each savory dish, discussion of the mundane generally gives way to rich dialogue and sometimes spirited debate. Oddly enough, the atmosphere of a meal seems to correlate to the quality of the fare served. However, blessings afforded from intentionally breaking bread together have been largely discarded in more recent times, relegating generations into frenzied, fast food-styled passersby. Except for scheduled holidays and an occasional reception here and there, culture has lost the artistry of the feast.
American cartoonist, Charles Shultz, captured this conundrum in A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. Leaning on Snoopy to conjure up a makeshift meal in little to no time, Charlie Brown and friends are treated to an abrupt disbursement of pretzels, popcorn, a few jelly beans, and two slices of buttered toast. Such an atypical Thanksgiving-type cadence and spread resulted in unmet expectations and disillusionment. Unfortunately, the meal went awry long before snacks were flung toward the awaiting guests.
At the point where Charlie Brown faced the need to prepare a meal, he was overwhelmingly distracted by the perceived enormity of the task. Dominated by anxiety resulting from a wearied lack of resourcefulness and a looming deadline, he lost the cardinal focus of loving one’s neighbor. Snoopy, the antithesis of Charlie Brown, met the task true to his character. With a no sweat swagger, he tackled the challenge by offhandedly checking the boxes. Peppermint Patty, who thoughtlessly instigated the affair, approached the table void of emotional intelligence and gratitude.
We are all called to prepare banquet tables. Symbolic for the deep and creative dominion mandate work we both offer and partake in, tables are our motivations, which directly affect the banquets or fruits we produce. As Christian educators, we must set tables of holy banquets featuring immeasurable Creation insights. We must take great care to feed our students well. James 3:1-2 warns, “Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.” Instructing children in the way of the Lord is a weighty calling with eternal implications. C.S. Lewis asserted, “The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles, but to irrigate deserts.” Set apart as sons and daughters of our King, we should ardently desire to serve Living Water to those impressionable souls entrusted in our care.
To develop and maintain an Eden-instinctive reservoir to creatively tap, we must also humbly sit in communion at the banquet table of our Heavenly Father. Daily feasting on the Truth of God’s Holy Word and cultivating a deep relationship with Him through continual prayer is the only way to nurture our shepherd hearts. Then and only then will we naturally petition, “Let my teaching fall like rain and my words descend like dew, like showers on new grass, like abundant rain on tender plants.” Deuteronomy 32:2.
Like Charlie Brown and company, alas, we are guilty at times of “cutting down jungles” by carrying out roles like the distressed host, cavalier convenor, or egocentric spectator. We are sometimes guilty of indifferently setting, or sitting, at the tables entrusted to us. The following often hinders the condition of our tables and eradicates the beauty of our banquets.
Christian school teachers are busy, busy, busy! Often, lack of personnel demands that we wear multiple hats. Ministry generally requires a literal hands and feet approach, and all at the same time. A single day can consist of plunging a clogged toilet, bandaging an injury, counseling a parent at wit’s end, navigating a technological hiccup, deciphering partial administrative communication, and repairing a copy machine. And all before 1st period! Scheduled “free periods” are often stolen by sub-duty or for completing work demanded by multiple extracurricular leadership roles. Such flurry of activity has real potential to hijack contemplation, creativity, and aspiration. Only scraps of time are left to perform the generative work needed in planning out lessons that illuminate ideas, inspire commentary, and equip change agents. We must battle for a weekly cadence fit to accomplish that deep work. Otherwise, we set apathetic tables of leftovers. We must invest in yearly, weekly, and daily scope and sequences as our magnum opus, our master’s piece.
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and with all your might. And these words I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and your gates. Deuteronomy 6:5-9
Sadly, we often gloss over these educationally focused verses. Sit at our Father’s banquet table and truly digest His words of truth. They are addressing us as instructional conduits. Our Lord Jesus Christ lovingly became flesh and demonstrated these verses as the ultimate object lesson! Examine instructional methods to ensure that your subject matter has been filtered through Scripture. Obediently imitate the Good Teacher’s example by asking thought-provoking questions and utilizing narrative for worldview literacy. Students will then possess sacred depth and wisdom instead of parroted, disconnected, and discarded morsels of information.
When Jesus was asked, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12: 30-3) Although these verses are often regarded as a behavioral checklist, our Lord is gently grasping our hands, looking intently into our eyes, and asking that He be our One True Love. We have direct access to absolute forgiveness, unconditional love, genuine guidance, steadfast companionship, and assured salvation by choosing Him. He only requests that we eagerly share it with others, like each student that sits in our rooms, passes by our doors, and roams the spaces of our schools. Yet, like those fishers of men before us, we must first sit at His feet and table to be equipped. We must resist condescendingly regarding study and training as inconvenient and unnecessary. Instead, we should be willing to partake in feasts that augment our menu, regarding them as hallowed appointments of provision. Personal, spiritual, and professional development resets our attitudes and distinguishes us as Marys amongst the Marthas. Additionally, like our Lord’s intentioned time as a carpenter, we should desire to broaden our creativity and hone our craft for His glory.
As image-bearers, let us faithfully and consistently examine the tables and offerings we prepare for our students, their families, as well as our kinship. If we humbly and regularly approach our Lord’s perfect and beautiful banquet table open-handed, He is faithful to supply all of our needs. Only then will we be rightly equipped to maintain time for generative work, baptize every lesson, and flourish as educational disciples. There has never been a more immediate time to behold the banquet table, for we host a cornucopia of future Kingdom warriors to nourish.
Photo by Dan DeAlmeida from Unsplash