When Family Meal Time Fills More Than Your Stomach

Last night we ate dinner at the kitchen table. We sat down across from each other, held hands for grace, shared the food, talked, listened, and even laughed.

It was worth the risk.

For the past couple of weeks, tensions have been high in our house. Anger, resentment, frustration had moved in. Relationships were stressed, breaking. This can be common in a house where teenage heads butt up against parental heads, against other teenage heads. But this latest incident was lasting too long, approaching an uncomfortable and dangerous edge.

Mealtime had become a routine of lining up at the kitchen counter, loading your plate, and taking your usual seat in the family room where the television was our dinner companion. We could eat our meals and watch Clark Kent save Smallville again, avoid eye contact, not talk.

When our daughters were little, we naturally ate at the kitchen table every night. There were inevitable messes to clean up, manners to teach, vegetables that had to be eaten. But as our daughters grew into teens who could balance a plate on their laps, the kitchen table became less of a place for dining and more of a place for writing, homework, sorting through mail, and polishing fingernails.

The knot in my stomach was growing. I prayed for peace to return to our home. For the laughs and the smiles to come back. I prayed for hearts to soften, for grace and forgiveness to flow once again. I prayed for wisdom to know what I could do to help turn the situation around. And while I was stirring the spaghetti sauce, it came to me.

I could set the table.

Yes, it requires a cleared off table top and produces more dirty dishes. It requires me being intentional. But after last night I realized that for our family, this is a good place to start the healing process.

Family healing begins on your knees and moves to the dinner table.

What about you? What mealtime habits have worked for your family? Or not worked? How do you see mealtime affecting your family relationships?