The Table (Seating)
We stand in the doorway to a round room with walls lost in the shadows. Dim-warm light comes from a source unseen, illuminating the center of the room. Dust motes float languidly through the light with no place to go.
And in the middle of the room—in the middle of the caress of light—a table. Round. Roughly hewn. Solid. Inviting.
The air sizzles and cracks with the sound of cooking food. Aromas waft in from doors unseen and the smell makes the mouth flood.
A crowd of people stands in the doorway and lines the walls, at the edges of the light.
And then the mad rush begins. Because the table invites, and everyone is desperate for a seat and space looks limited. The mass begins to shove and scramble as people claw for a spot at the table.
The big, round table begins to fill as people claim seats. Eyes are desperate and searching as the mass collides upon the center—everyone afraid to be left out of this game of musical chairs.
And the table fills with people.
And everyone is getting seated and it’s magic and eyes get wide and wonder at the mystery, and the table expands without growing and everyone has a place.
The guests settle in and the food appears and the food is everything promised by the aroma and more. The food is Grace and it is endless and there is always enough to go around and the reality of it all begins to descend upon the jostling crowd:
At the table of life—at the Table for Everyone—the seats are limitless and no one is excluded and the food is Grace and breaking bread there is like coming home and coming together.
When Everyone Unsubscribed
Several weeks ago, I wrote about honoring the dignity and humanity in everyone, including people with different sexual orientations. And within minutes of the mailing, I received an avalanche of people unsubscribing from the mailing list. For the first time ever, a slew of readers told me directly in comments and by email they were unsubscribing because they were disappointed at the questionable and undesirable content.
The next day, due to a glitch in the delivery system, the email went out again. The response made the previous day’s reaction seem benign. Readers were concerned I was prescribing a belief, advocating for a political platform, or morally undermining our culture.
I was inviting everyone to the table.
Because I think we are desperate for spaces in this world where we can begin to put down all of our competitive identities—including sexual, racial, ethnic, religious, political, economic—and encounter each other with grace, as members of a human community who have more in common than in conflict.
I think we are desperately in need of a Table for Everyone.
The Table (Eating)
The table is full, yet there is elbow space for everyone and always space for more. The food has descended before each person and everyone gets the same amount because bottomless Grace is immeasurable. And the meal begins.
Except, for some people, it doesn’t.
For some people, arms are crossed. Scared and protective? Angry and aggressive? Both? They never expected a Table like this. They are wondering who put together the guest list, and who invited these people? These people who are wrong, who need to be corrected.
They try to be tolerant for a while, but eventually arms uncross as they push themselves away from the table. They get up. They walk away into the shadows.
Do the people at the Table revel in their departure? No. Because at the Table for Everyone, a loss is felt and people call out, begging them to return and to stay and to join. Some may return. Many won’t.
Meanwhile, there’s a second group of people at the table who aren’t eating. They’re like giddy schoolchildren. They’d dreamed of a Table for Everyone, but in the midst of their shame, they had decided “Everyone” didn’t include them. They aren’t hungry, because they are being fed simply by their belonging. They are too grateful to eat. All they want to do is call their friends—their companions in shame—and to spread the good news.
To let everyone know the Table is full but there is always room for more and everyone is invited.
Everyone else is eating. Talking is sporadic and it comes in murmurs and giggles. Because when you are consuming Grace—and it is consuming you—you’re mouth is too full to talk about who belongs and who doesn’t. You just sit. Together. And partake.
When I Apologized
Several weeks ago, after the second email went out, I sent out a third email, apologizing for the duplicate messages. I asked for grace in my messiness. And Dear Reader, you gave it to me. You sent me a bunch of emails thanking me for writing and giving it away. Dear Reader, you told me I had a place at your table and you fed me with grace, and for that I am deeply grateful.
And it made me realize, we are in relationship across the miles, aren’t we?
Despite the vastness of cyberspace and the actual geography separating us, on this increasingly interconnected globe, we are all in relationship. We are a mass of messy, broken humanity with a diversity of beliefs and histories and backgrounds. Yet when we truly encounter each other, when we let each other in, those distinctions begin to bleed away and the space between us shrinks and we get to be fully human together.
So, here in this space, I want to build a Table for Everyone—a big, round, rough-hewn table with a place for everybody.
I will keep writing about grace.
I will invite everyone.
I will hope you join me.
And I will hope we can partake together in the Grace raining down upon us—the Grace that is filling the Table for Everyone like an endless feast for all of humanity.
In his debut novel, Kelly weaves a page-turning, plot-twisting tale that explores the spiritual depths of identity and relationships, amidst themes of healing, grace, faith, forgiveness, and freedom.
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Dr. Kelly Flanagan is a psychologist, author, consultant, and speaker who enjoys walking with people through the three essentials of a truly satisfying life: worthiness, belonging, and purpose. His blog writings have been featured in Reader’s Digest, The Huffington Post, The 5 Love Languages, and the TODAY Show. Kelly is the author of Loveable and True Companions.