My mother attended boarding school at a time when girls were taught the importance of setting a proper table: salad fork on the left, then the dinner fork. Knife on the right, facing inward, then the teaspoon. There were also places for soup spoons and dessert forks. One did not use one’s knife for the butter, but instead a specially-shaped butter knife lying just so on the butter plate.
She passed this knowledge on to her daughters, and throughout my childhood, one of my chores was setting the table, including cloth napkins and candles in the center.
I did not often invite a friend over for dinner.
In the end, what matters is not the table setting, but the food we are given. We all have times when the table may be lovely, but the food is tasteless. In my parents’ home, we set a proper table whether we were eating a birthday dinner or weeknight stew.
Each day we live, God invites us to a banquet. In every agony or joy, every ordinary breath and common moment, He sets out the bread of His presence and bids us come.
The table He prepares nurtures and fills.
But we doubt, don’t we? When worries breach our walls and hope escapes into the night, we wonder if there are any crumbs left under the table for us.
As I write, there is a feast laid outside my window. Shimmering birch leaves, blue sky and a bird’s whistle heap a bounty of beauty onto my waiting plate.
Here also is a banquet in my lap. Holy words that comfort and heal. Life-giving words on fingered pages. It is a Sunday, and soon I will partake of worship and fellowship, bread and cup.
But I, too, doubt. My appetite swells for the temporal, temporary goodies that bring a jolt of pleasure or brief respite, instead of for the beauty and richness of gratitude for a life given, a burden lifted, a heart healed.
I turn to other things and disregard the holy abundance.
I’ve found that as I lift my eyes in expectation and open my hands to be filled, the manna always comes to my hungry heart. Though I doubt, still He sends it to me; just enough. Just enough.
There is a feast waiting, one day. A celebration of communion and joy beyond imagining. The table is set, waiting for you. For me.
There is also a banquet waiting, this day. A hint of hope and sweet encouragement, a taste of heaven in this dry and weary land. A holy deposit given to nourish and strengthen our souls along the road.
It comes from the One who waits eagerly for our presence. The One who said, “I am the bread of life.”
The one who seeks finds the bread of heaven and the water of life. In the darkness, in the waiting, the manna comes, sweet.