My oldest son is an Eagle Scout and completed numerous merit badges during his journey toward the Eagle rank.
When he was a younger scout, I remember him working on the “Cooking” merit badge. Part of the requirements to earn this merit badge included planning a meal, shopping for the ingredients, preparing, cooking, and serving the meal. To be honest, I don’t quite remember the type of meal that he prepared.
What I do remember is how he prepared and set the table for our family.
At each seat at the dinner table, he carefully set out placemats, napkins, cups, silverware, bibs, and sippy cups (for the littles). He was attentive to detail – folding each napkin precisely with creased centers and aligning every piece of silverware in proper placement. Everything was going according to plan including his awareness to keep the kitchen cleaned as he cooked. I stayed in the background and simply watched as he seemed confident in his meal preparation and cooking skills. As he was nearing completion, I walked into the kitchen to see if I could help with any last minute details.
It was then that I noticed an area by the kitchen sink that was cleared and completely set with a placemat, napkin, cup, and perfectly placed silverware.
I thought maybe he had forgotten to set this one at the dinner table and asked him why it was there. He casually said, “Mom, this place setting is for you. You always eat standing up because you serve us at every meal – getting ketchup, pouring milk, cleaning spills, wiping faces, and cutting food.” Although he meant no offense or disrespect, I didn’t know how to respond.
I didn’t realize that during family meal times I hardly sat down to enjoy the meal with my family. I simply continued to serve and serve and serve. This can be a noble thing, but it didn’t complete the family meal. My presence at the family table was missing.
As stated in Mark 10:45, Jesus “did not come to be served but to serve.”
Jesus serves us; however, He also sits with us. There are many times in sacred scripture that state Jesus not only sat at the table but He also “reclined” at table. He paused and simply embraced the company and the conversation of those around Him whether it be His apostles, disciples, tax collectors, Pharisees, or sinners. Jesus allowed Himself to be present and to be among those who were at table with Him.
He communicated teachings and parables while cultivating a relaxed atmosphere during mealtime. Unlike either Martha or Mary, He epitomized the beauty of both “serving and sitting.” He shows us there are blessings in being balanced.
This was a big “wake up call” for me.
From that time on, I gradually learned to balance the beauty of serving my family while also being present and savoring the time and conversation during meals. In other words, I learned to “sit down.” I learned I could either continue to be the ultimate waitress constantly busying myself with every need at the dinner table or sit for a moment and appreciate the togetherness that mealtimes offer.
Lent was the perfect time for me to begin this transition.
Meals were simpler and less hurried. There naturally seemed to be a slower pace with a certain reverence even among the younger children. There was definitely a learning curve to achieve the balance of “serving and sitting.” I approached meal preparation differently. For example, I began to think in advance of all of the possible items that could be needed and brought to the table beforehand.
Throughout the years and with a conscious effort, I have learned and cherished Jesus’ example of “serving and sitting.”
I’ve learned to empty myself through service and to fill myself through presence, listening to the sweet voices gathered around my table. Honestly, it is so nice to “sit down.” It’s nice to make the effort to “recline” at table and be a part of conversations and stories. It‘s nice to not only savor the meal but also savor family time. “Serving and sitting” allows balance, beauty, and blessings. What could make a more perfect meal?
While he was at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat with Jesus and his disciples. (Matthew 9:10)
A Pharisee invited him to dine with him, and he entered the Pharisee’s house and reclined at table. (Luke 7:36)