When I grew up I ate fish sticks and tater tots for dinner almost every night. I don’t remember exactly but I think that the word fish on the box of fish sticks had an asterisk by it.
Captain Billy’s Fish* Sticks
*No fish were harmed in the making of this product because there are no fish in it. Seaweed? Yes. Fish? No way.
We didn’t eat at the table very much either. We ate in the living room off of these miniature fold out tables called TV trays while watching reruns of Mama’s Family. That aspect of my childhood disqualifies me from ever being able to serve as the President of the United States. Or be a teacher. Or a pastor. Don’t tell my church.
My kids have it different. They’re growing up with homemade bread. No fish* sticks. No Mama’s Family.
And no TV trays.
Instead, we eat at our kitchen table. But it’s more than just a kitchen table. It’s a seminary classroom. This isn’t really by my design. It’s not like I make my four-year-old parse a Greek verb or defend the doctrine of election before he passes the potatoes. That doesn’t come until he turns five. For now, the questions just seem to come naturally.
“Dad, did God know that Adam and Eve would sin?”
“Dad, will we have jobs in Heaven?”
“Dad, how much does Jesus love us?”
“Dad, is Gregg Allman a Christian? What about Dwight Yoakam?”
When I was a kid, eating dinner meant listening to the sounds of the television. Now it means listening to the curious little boys sitting at the kitchen table. But it’s more than me listening to them. They’re listening to me too.
A few nights ago my son told me that he had something about God figured out.
“God is in control of everything. We can’t always understand the things that God does but that’s okay because God is good.”
I think he’s right. He does have that figured out. He went on to tell me that he was having a more difficult time with the Trinity. I told him that it was okay because any god that’s easy to understand isn’t worth worshiping. That seemed to help. But we’ve still got plenty of time to try and understand the Trinity better. My wife has a lot of good recipes and there’s always plenty of room at our kitchen table for good questions.
At some point our kids will have their faith called into question. They will have the option either to abandon the faith of their mother and father or make it their own. I’m thankful that my two boys are in a church where they are being prepared for whenever that day comes. But the kitchen table is where it all comes together. The kitchen table is where the theology they learn on Sundays comes to life.
So moms, while you’re planning out the menu for the week, remember that you’re doing more than providing nourishment for your children. Even if it’s fish* sticks and tater tots, you just might be helping to feed their souls as well as their stomachs.
And dads, turn the TV off and put your phone down. Talk to your kid. Answer her questions, even if your best answer is, “I don’t know.” Sometimes an open ear can say just as much as an open mouth.
When my sons are grown and their faith is their own, I hope that they look back and remember our family meals.
Along with a diligent mother who prepared those meals with love.
A father who loved them enough to listen, even if he didn’t know all of the answers to their questions.
And a sovereign God who graciously and gradually made himself known to them.
All at the kitchen table.