Around the family table, my mom would often lead us in song for our dinnertime blessing. Her steady alto voice would beckon,
Be present at our table, Lord.
Be here and everywhere adored.
These mercies bless and grant that we
May feast in fellowship with thee.
When our own voices rose to match, she’d break away from the melody, splitting into a harmony, knowing we would hold that steady melody all the way through. That final amen would carry for two measures-leaving space for our rising and falling vocalizations. On occasion, this same blessing would be sung before a potluck at church, or family reunions depending on who was saying grace. We were unified in song, sometimes simply with our small table, or in chorus with multiple tenor, bass, and soprano voices finding their places.
Be Present at our Table, Lord.
While picturesque at times, appreciation of this ritual was a mixed bag. As a child, I relished any opportunity to sing this song loud and put on a show. As a pre-teen storming adulthood, embarrassment drove me to a bare whisper, often mouthing the words to escape reprise, or a solo performance.
Around our own family table, teenage angst is high when the blessings begin. We don’t sing, but, we do hold hands while trading off who says grace for the meal. Depending on your seating partner, this experience ranges from limp toleration to opportunistic revenge. Many nights produce complete refusal to comply. Then, the barrage of complaints.
Don’t touch me! You’re disgusting.
Stop squeezing my fingers off!
I’m not praying. You do it.
We’ve heard it all, so we gave up this blessing time for a season. “Just eat!” we’d declare, knowing that a heartless blessing and broken fingers makes for a weary meal and a trip to med express. The tables had turned. And now I was the parent appreciating and grieving over saying grace with my family. Developing in me was a newfound understanding of what my mom was after in her effort to sing with us around the table.
Be present. Be Here. Feast in Fellowship.
These older eyes catch the beauty of routine. Viewed in youth as well-worn and tired, this steadiness and consistency seems like the passing on of love and life. However old, and consistent, this prayerful routine grounded us together more than any other grand gesture. While I’ve forgotten a thousand meals, I’m marked by the memory of the song. I believe it is a deep taproot grounding me to generations of family and faith before and after me.
As this weekend carries on, what routines are the taproot to your life? How are they grounding you today? May you be encouraged to be present at your table, giving and receiving the adoration of God, creation, and humanity.
Blessings to you and your table!