When I hear people speak of family dinner time as sacred and sweet, I have to wonder if they have kids. Maybe it’s just us, but the thirty-ish minutes we spend all around the dinner table every night display nearly ALL our weaknesses. If a child is feeling particularly selfish, there’s usually something in the meal about which they can complain. If a toddler is especially prone to rebel, food is an effective tool for wrestling power from the parents in charge. And if Mom or Dad are nurturing their own sense of entitlement that day, there’s no end to the ways children can frustrate their notions of a relaxing and peaceful dining experience.
It’s not pretty, but I confess – most days, this is our life. Our worst qualities show up when crowded around the table during what should be a wonderful time of enjoying and connecting with one another.
I recently finished this Bible study with a group of women from my church:
I’ve appreciated this one because its subtitle – Your Weakness, God’s Strength – is the very theme of the story I feel God writing on my life these days. One thing Priscilla mentioned in the very first video has had me pondering my parenting ways quite a bit.
Looking at the background of the Israelites, she talked about Joshua’s incredible leadership but then zoned in on how quickly the spiritual climate changed in Israel after his death. Judges 2:10 describes the culture shift,
“And there arose another generation after them who did not know The Lord or the work that he had done for Israel.”
All it took for God to be forgotten was ONE GENERATION. This convicted me and urges me to consider how I can more intentionally demonstrate to my kids who God is.
Because our evening mealtime had officially turned into Crazy Hour, immediately I saw this as an area in our family life desperate for Jesus to invade. What better practice field for passing down the story of God than our chaotic, mess-filled dinnertime?!
So here is one way we’ve been pursuing a more Jesus-filled experience at the dinner table:
Praying For A Different Family Each Night
This is a twist on an idea my friend Holly shared last year. We’ve begun nightly to go through our collection of received Christmas cards and choose one family to pray for at the start of supper:
This has been a wonderful way to engage our kids in intercessory prayer and to position them – and us – to see God work in other people’s lives. But that’s maybe not even the best part because – Oh! – the hilarity that ensues. Exactly what we parents need to keep us laughing instead of stressing. Never downplay humor as one of the best parenting tools in existence. Let’s be honest – sometimes it just saves lives.
If you happen to be one of the people who sent us a card, these are the types of prayers you’re getting from our wacky little ones:
My daughter Parker Jane has all your medical needs covered. Her request for every single family is that they don’t get sick or, if they are, that they get well. Health is a big deal to her, and she’s consistent with that petition. My son Jonah has prayed on more than one occasion that a friend “stays wealthy” – whatever that means. Hilarious. And if you are a pregnant friend and God answers according to the kids’ request, you can rest assured that your baby is going to be a boy or a girl. (Whew!)
For a family that has historically been terrible at any type of structured family devotional anything, I think this one might have some staying power in our home. The kids have been excited each night to see what family is next up to pray for, and we love practicing this discipline with them and seeing God plant seeds of compassion in their hearts. Even better when we get to share answered requests and hear testimonies of God’s power in the lives of these friends. And it doesn’t hurt for us to start our crazy dinners with eyes on Jesus and thinking about someone besides ourselves. It’s been sweet, and that’s good because sometimes the rest of dinner is just, um, not.
Though we’re on this mission to redeem our time together at the table for teachable moments about God’s glory, I don’t think it’s about having less of the crazy so much as it is about having more of the God-glorifying in the crazy. I know there will be many more exhausting dinners together. We’ll continue to have behavior issues interrupt the peace, manners-training require our attention, and discipline to be administered during our meals together. But we can be intentional in not letting the WORK and WEARINESS of parenting these children cloud our focus and keep us from shepherding their hearts and minds to know God while we have the time with them. We are imperfect, inconsistent, impatient parents striving to lean on God’s grace and trusting in His righteousness to cover our many parenting fails. Only Christ can be what our kids need and what we need in parenting them. I’m thanking God that the Word and Spirit guide us in practical ways to teach Jesus to our babes.
Let’s Join Each Other in This –
How are you redeeming the moments – even the the hard ones – to pass on the truth of who God is?
Do you have to maneuver any especially crazy times during your day to reach your kids’ hearts with the gospel?
And finally, are we the only family who breaks down at dinner every night?? (Let us commiserate, I mean encourage one another.)