It might be our most chaotic hour of every single day. The twenty minutes prior to everyone sitting down at the table are not pretty. Take this evening, for example.
Pork chops and baked potatoes were in the oven, to be done just before 6:00. I was happily spreading the chocolate/butterscotch topping on a pan of scotcheroos as the kids gleefully licked spatulas. Paul was studying in his office. The aromas filled our house and smelled delicious. Life was grand.
And then BAM!
5:40 rolls around and the house turns upside down, simply to ensure that we enter suppertime in pure chaos.
Griffin decides that he can't handle his rumbling tummy for one more second and begins to scream.
Gregory is spastic crazy (per usual) and jumping from one piece of furniture to the next. In doing so, he lands on his sister and elbows her in the stomach. Sister screams. Mom yells.
Sister runs away from brother and finds "safety" by yanking Mom's shoulder nearly out of its socket as I am digging in the freezer for vegetables. Mom yells again.
Griffin continues crying. Only his volume changes. Louder.
Evelyn, dutifully doing her homework, comes to the oven (because I can't hear her otherwise) with her alphabetizing worksheet in hand and needs help with putting roast, roam, and row in the correct order. Except I can't hear her (or the thoughts in my head) with the ninja-furniture jumping boy, the screaming girl who is still running away from her brother, and the baby who can't take another minute of hunger.
AAGGHH!!!! WHAT DO I DO FIRST?
Put the toddler in his high chair with a peanut butter sandwich so I can open the oven without him climbing into it.
Help the 7-year-old alphabetize.
Send the boy to the couch with a book.
Hand the girl the Kindle and tell her to play a game.
Yell while doing all of the above.
Cut-up pork chops on the plates. Butter potatoes on plates.
Ignore the child who is nearly in tears because "Mom, potatoes make me gag!"
Tell everyone to "sit down right now!" (not very kindly)
Okay let's pray. (Not exactly how one should enter into a prayer of thanksgiving, right?)
Then the meal.
Toddler throws sippy cup.
Toddler throws pork chops.
Boy falls off his chair.
Girl gags on potatoes.
One child tries talking, 3 children interrupt.
Toddler throws fork.
Mom and Dad:
"What did you say honey?"
"What? I can't hear you."
"Greg sit down"
"Griffin stop throwing things."
"Please just try it."
"Remember the scotcheroos I made? Eat your green beans first."
"You're not going to gag!"
At least one child: "Mom I gotta go pee!"
Many of you are wondering why on earth we go through this every single evening. And many of you are right there with me because you do it every day too. And many of you are remembering back to when this was your house every night (unless you've blocked it out, which I'm pretty sure many of you have, since you always tell us to "embrace every minute...").
So, really, why do we do it?
Because very few things matter more.
Because the supper table is sacred territory. Because the supper table holds us together. Because the supper table is where we talk about our days and do high's and low's. Because the supper table is full of laughter (chaos, yes, but laughter too). Because the supper table makes me realize I was wrong to yell at my kids for the last twenty minutes, and I apologize to my family for doing so. And the boy apologizes for jumping on his sister. And the girl apologizes for pulling my shoulder nearly out of socket. And admitting our wrongs to one another brings vulnerability and authenticity to our relationships. And then we chuckle about it.
Because the supper table is where we teach manners and respect and listening to one another and taking turns in conversation. Because the supper table is where we teach nutrition and appreciation of food and health. Because the supper table is often where Daddy is funniest and we all laugh hysterically. Because the supper table is where we have our best conversations about the easy stuff and the hard stuff. Because the supper table is where we enjoy delicious desserts after our meals. Because the supper table is where Daddy reads the Bible to us for a few minutes and we grow in Christ together.
When Paul and I were first married, before we had any children, Paul decide to build our kitchen table. It was his first-ever wood working project, with significant help from a family friend who was thrilled to open up his shop and his expertise to Paul. Paul wanted to make our kitchen table because he knew it would be the center of our family life. The most sacred territory of the home (with the exception of the marriage bed, which is another blog all together...)
And he was right.
The supper table is holy ground.
And I'm certain that the enemy of our souls is out to destroy the family supper table. Our enemy is certainly destroying families. (Like Jesus said, "The thief has come to steal, kill, and destroy..." John 10:10) So it makes perfect sense that he's trying to destroy the holy ground of the supper table.
He is the enemy of our souls, after all, and the supper table feeds our souls at least as much as it feeds our stomachs.
And looks how he's doing it - through busy-ness, kids' activities schedules, meetings, TV...things that in and of themselves, aren't necessarily bad things. But when they become more important than the family supper time, it can break down family togetherness and connectedness. And that's the big deal.
And it's worth fighting for.
Teen risk behavior studies repeatedly show that the family supper time is one of the most significant factors in whether or not a teen is going to engage in high risk behaviors. The more family connectedness (built largely through family meals), the less likelihood of high risk behaviors.
Because even though the enemy has come to steal and kill and destroy, Jesus also said, "but I have come that you might have life, and have it to the full." (John 10:10)
Full, abundant, fruitful, connected, well-loved life is available to us. Here and now.
And throughout the Scriptures, meals (breaking bread) together is at the center of the abundant life of community. That's why we love to have people over for dinner and feasts and pizza parties and turkey dinners and wine & dessert nights. It's why food as at the heart of most gatherings. It's why restaurants are always packed, even during the recent recession.
Sharing meals is biblical. "Breaking bread" together is at the heart of relationships. It's the last thing Jesus did with His disciples...he shared the Last Supper with them, and broke bread together.
It's why, throughout the entire Bible, God describes Heaven as the great marriage feast.
Because it matters.
The family supper table matters far more than feeding our tummies before bed. It's the life blood of the family. Even if it's occasionally frozen pizza or corn dogs. Even if you forget the veggies sometimes.
Even if you have to apologize to your kids for yelling at them while you were trying to cut up the pork chops.
They say that in parenting you have to "choose your battles." Suppertime is a battle worth choosing. It's worth the effort. It's worth saying "No, you can't be in that activity because it interferes with suppertime."
That particular activity is more than likely not going to shape your child's life in any significant way.
But family suppertime will shape your child's life.
I know it's pure chaos. Our house is too.
But some things are worth the chaos.
And suppertime is worth the fight.
P.S. - If you are looking for a great family Bible for devotions, we highly recommend this one. We received it as a gift from a friend who had been reading it to his own family for many years. The Bible stories are broken into short segments that take only about 5-minutes/day, totally doable with young kids (still chaotic with kids falling off chairs and toddlers throwing sippy cups...but God can handle our chaos:)