The Table (A Story For Thanksgiving)
By Dr. Mike Murphy
She rubbed her hand gently across the grain, feeling every crevice of the oak boards. As she looked across the table, she could see the mess that awaited her. A table filled with semi-empty bowls and partially cleaned plates. A table that had about as much food on it as had just been served in the bowls and platters that covered it. It would take her hours to ever get to where she see her table clean again. But as she looked at the mess that faced her, she did not mind. The mess would just add to the memories.
Of all the gifts she had ever been given, she cherished the old table that was now covered in food above them all. It had been a wedding gift from her in-laws. A gift she had always dreamed of, a formal dining table with two leafs and twelve chairs. She had grown up in a large family, with brothers and sisters always around. But with all the mouths to feed, she had also grown up very poor. Her family could never afford a large table, one that everyone could sit around and have a meal on together. Meals at her house consisted of finding a place to eat that all her brothers and sisters had not already taken. And as the youngest of ten, that usually meant she ate on the floor.
When her husband and her had gotten married over forty years ago, her in-laws asked her what she wanted as a wedding present. Of all the gifts she could have asked for, a large dining table was on the top her list. A table where everyone would always have a place to sit. A table the family she wanted would grow in to.
Although they questioned her request many times, two days after they were married a brand new table arrived. Her husband and her could barely afford the little house they had just bought, and had chose to put a down payment on the house instead of taking a honeymoon. She still remembered the day the delivery truck brought the table to that small house. It was all they could do to get it through the door. The table was almost larger than any of the rooms they had to place it in. Only one room in the old house was large enough for the table to fit, but fit it would! She thought to herself, they would just have to adjust. The master bedroom would just have to be known as the dining room. Another room would just have to become the bedroom now. In her mind, the table was not just a part of her home, it represented all she wanted from a home. So the large table took center stage.
As they purchased larger houses, their family grew also. Soon four children came into their lives, three daughters and a son. And with each year, the gift she had asked for, she now cherished more. The table had been nothing short of becoming a part of her family. That table had seen her family grow, and had been a part of their lives as much as she had. The table had seen it all. High chairs and booster seats had found their way to the table. Many a diaper had also been changed on the table. Two of her children had spoken their first words from the table. ABC’s and 123’s had been learned while sitting at the table.
Countless school projects had been built at the table. Tears had been shed on the table as boyfriends and girlfriends had past through their lives. Checks for college tuition had been paid from the table. Weddings had been planned on the table. The arrival of grandkids had been announced at the table. And now she held those precious grandchildren at the same table.
Even after the kids had grown, and bought their own tables, her table still played an important part in her life. Her husband and her had planned their future retirement at the table. Each week, the Bible study she loved so much gathered around the table. And twice each week, two of her daughters met her for coffee around the table.
As she looked again at the mess, she said an extra prayer. She thanked the Lord for sending her the table, and for all He had brought into her life through the table. And before she finished the prayer, she thanked the Lord for all He would still be sending her way, all she was still to see around her cherished table.
As each of us gather with family and friends around our table this Thanksgiving, I hope that each of the things the Lord has placed around us will remind you of all we are thankful for. That each of us will come to know just what it means to be “thankful”.
So what does it mean to be thankful? And just what do each of us have to be thankful for? The Bible tells us, “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.” (James 1:17). God’s Word reminds us of where everything comes, and to Whom we are to be grateful for everything we have. Without thankfulness, our lives become self-contained and self-centered. We begin to give ourselves credit for all we have, instead of turning to the One who gives us all. It is the humbleness of being truly thankful that keeps us on solid ground with the Giver of all. Paul warned us of what our lives would be like without thankfulness, and of a day that would come when men would no longer be thankful. “For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy” (2 Timothy 3:2). Without grounding ourselves in thankfulness, and submitting ourselves to all we have to be thankful to the Lord for, we quickly forget all the Lord is, and desires to do in each of our lives.
“In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). When we are thankful to the Lord for all things, we give God the credit for all good that is happening in our lives. When we are thankful, we push aside the spite, the resentfulness, the grief, and the pain that this world is so quick to show us, and we replace it with the love and mercy that the Lord desires for us. It is in our thankfulness that strength can be found, and it is in that thankfulness to the Lord that no evil can ever be present (James 1:12). Paul tells us, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28). It is for that good, for that purpose, that should bring us to our knees each day, thanking our Lord for all He does for and through each of us. It is through this good, and this purpose, that we can be thankful despite any situation we may find ourselves in. That although the situation around us may cause us to grieve, to feel pain, we can still praise God, knowing without doubt He is right there with us.
Holding us tight in His arms through every situation. Offering to us a hope that extends beyond the pain and the grief. A Hope that leads us to be thankful for all tomorrow promises.
We so easily forget each day all we have to be thankful to our Lord for. We should be thankful to God for the goodness and love He shows us (Psalm 136:6). Without the Lord, we quickly sink in our own depravity, and only know the death that this world extends to us. It is only through the steadfastness of His love that life can be offered to us, and that life can be found in us. We should be thankful for the deliverance He brings us, and for the faithfulness He alone has shown us (Psalm 30:1-12). We should be thankful for the mercy, the protection, and the justice He has for us (Psalm 28:6-7). We should be thankful of the worthiness He shows us (Revelation 4:11). We should be thankful for His Hand covering us, even at times we do not know that Hand is there (Deuteronomy 31:8). We should be thankful for the promises He has brought us, and the future He alone has created for us (Ephesians 1:3). And we should give Him thanks for the table He has prepared for us (Psalm 23:5).
On this day of Thanksgiving, we reflect back to the origins of this day, and to that first table of thankfulness that was celebrated so many years ago. Like the Pilgrims, we have a choice today to honor the Lord for all He has done this past year, and for all He is doing for us today. And as we sit to consume the feast that has been prepared in front of us, and unbutton the top snap on our pants to make room for a few extra bites, let us not forget what this day brings to us. A day that is less about the feast, and far more about the praise. May the Lord find us grateful for all He has done for us, and all He is presently doing through us. And in our prayers and praise, may we also find ourselves thankful for all He has planned for us tomorrow.
Let us not forget all the Pilgrims were grateful to the Lord for on that day. They praised Him for all He has done to save them. They praised Him for keeping His hand over them, and bringing them to that day. And they thanked Him for the promises that He had showed them, promises that gave them a hope for tomorrow. They thanked him for the table He had placed in front of them, and for all that table would bring to generations of children after them.
As you gather around your table for Thanksgiving, may each of your prayers be as thankful as the prayers of those Pilgrims so many years ago. Do not let the prayers you give from your table just thank the Lord for all He has done in your life yesterday, and all He is doing today. Let those prayers also be filled with thanks for all He will do in your life tomorrow. Thank Him today for all the opportunities to glorify Him that He will bring your way, and for all His Hand will guide you through in the days to come. Thank Him for the blessings that you are yet to see, blessings that will soon fill your days and your nights. And thank Him for all the precious memories that He still plans to bring to each of your tables.
I pray the Lord will always leave your table full! Full of the Hope that tomorrow brings! Full of all things you will be thankful for!