A Table in the Presence of My Enemies

I learned something yesterday.

I shared my table with a few beloved friends over the course of the day. And, like so many of us these days, we all had some really difficult and bizarre things hanging off our shoulders – some little and annoying, some bigger and heavier.

I tidied the house, forgave the spaces that weren’t going to get tidied, and did my best to warmly arrange those places I
could. A space at the table, a clean high chair, a pot of tea, fresh baked pumpkin bread. And don’t get me wrong, Martha Stewart does not live here. I’m talking about shabby hospitality at its finest, complete with clumps of dog hair in the corners and my annoyingly shallow sink overflowing with dirty dishes along with the bread and tea and tiny decorative gourds.

As I made space for us, though, the Spirit whispered. “This is what we meant in Psalm 23. This is the table prepared in the presence
of enemies.”

In the act of setting the table, I finally understood that part of the psalm.

It’s not flaunting God’s favor in the face of the enemies, it’s not feasting the night before battle so we have more energy to spill the enemy’s blood. It’s rounding a corner, all bedraggled and wet and smelly with effort and finding a place lovingly set for you. It’s being surprised again when God ambushes you and says, like your favorite doting great aunt, “Sit, sit, sit! You look hungry. Here, take your shoes off, I’ll
fix you something.”

Now that I get it, I can see all the places in my past where I stumbled onto tables in the wilderness, tables in the presence of my enemies.

The Ronald McDonald room at Mercy Hospital.
Kara‘s apartment, during my dad’s sickness.
Morning coffee at St. Paul’s.
Roommate dinners.
Good friends with broad shoulders at McGurks.

This is our work – just to set the table for our neighbors, to keep a place that’s warm and dry and safe when folks need to come out of the rain.

This is our work – to allow ourselves to sit when we stumble across the surprise table in the presence of our enemies. To let ourselves be dried off, fed, and reminded that we are bigger than the battle and more than the path.

Keep an eye out, beloved friends. The ambush table will pop up, probably sooner than we’re expecting. Open the door, even with your mess on display. Whether you’re the one setting or the one sitting, it doesn’t matter. We both walk away better and fuller

 

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