My materialistic, but with a purpose, dream right now is to own a beautiful, long farmhouse table that seats at least ten and a dining space to hold said table. Yes, I think they are one of the prettiest pieces of furniture a home can have, but I want a table that long so that I can fill it.
Now don’t get me wrong, I feel humbled and blessed to have carried our two boys and given birth to them. And who knows, maybe one day far into the future we will consider Baby Roberts the Encore, but I have zero desire to birth eight babies to fill that hypothetical-hopefully-one day-reality farmhouse table.
So, why do I dream of a farmhouse table that seats ten for our current family of four? So that we have a seat for the one who needs it. To have a seat for foster children who are in desperate need of a temporary haven from the chaos of their birth families. So that we have a seat to adopt the fatherless and abandoned. To have a seat to invite others to dinner to be in community with our family as we journey through life.
There is a quote that has become one of our core values as a family. It says, “When you have more than you need, build a longer table, not a higher fence.” This is such a sweet sentiment, but the reality of it doesn’t come easy. If we are honest, our human nature is to build up walls. We want to protect ourselves and our families, and don’t want to allow anything in that is messy or will hurt us. Self-preservation and comfort run deep in our nature, and it is so uncomfortable to open ourselves up to the messes of others, especially the mess of those who really need it.
Living in Guatemala stretched me in many ways, but it really stretched me in this area. Hospitality does not come natural to me. My family did not entertain much when I was growing up, and when we did it always was proceeded by a lot of planning. That paired with my total dislike of cleaning, made me more than hesitant to extend a seat at our table early in marriage. However, in Guatemala, I witnessed friends opening their small homes without second thought. Their tables were long and their fences short (though not literally because everything is walled in Guatemala due to safety concerns). They invited anyone and everyone to have a seat at their table. American Thanksgiving? Invite everyone, Guatemalans and all. As I watched, and eventually opened our doors on several spur of the moment occasions, I believe God was preparing my heart for what was next. He was calling our family to build a longer table.
Our instincts say opening a place at our table will be uncomfortable, messy, and even painful, but isn’t that what Jesus did? He went to the messy places and did uncomfortable things with messy people. He entered into the pain of our messy earth so that we could have a seat at His table. In Matthew 22, Jesus even told a parable of the wedding feast where servants went into the streets and “…invite to the banquet anyone you find” (Verse 9). The parable is that of the Kingdom of Heaven. And I have to ask, what better way to expand His Kingdom that to do just that? Expanding our tables and extending the invitation.
Maybe you don’t daydream about farmhouse tables (or maybe you do, because they are pretty dreamy), but I think we are all called to lower our fences and open seats at our tables. Maybe that means you walk through the hard season with the friend that is struggling, being willing to carry her pain as your own. You could be called to feed the hungry through school backpack programs and other feeding programs around the world. Maybe you open your home to the widow who is lonely. It’s possible that, like us, God is calling you to consider opening a spot at your table for the fatherless through foster care or adoption. Whatever it may be, let’s build longer tables.